A Tennessee woman who was denied an abortion earlier this year is using her experience to run for office in the state.
“Because of the trauma Tennessee’s [abortion] ban has caused me, I have been dedicating my time to try and change their barbaric law,” Allie Phillips said in her first campaign video, launched on Monday and first reported by the Nashville Post. “That is why I am now running for the Tennessee state House of Representatives, District 75.”
The lifelong Tennessee resident went viral earlier this year when she shared her story of pregnancy loss on TikTok. Phillips and her husband were elated when they found out she was pregnant with her second daughter in November 2022. The couple had decided to name the baby Miley Rose after the song “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus. And every night before bedtime, Phillips’ 6-year-old daughter, Adalie, would sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to her belly — a sign she was going to be a good big sister.
But during Phillips’ 19-week anatomy scan, her doctor told her the fetus had several fatal anomalies and that Miley Rose would not survive outside of the womb. In the same breath, the physician said they could not offer Phillips the critical care she needed, since months earlier Tennessee had enacted a near-total abortion ban after the fall of Roe v. Wade. The state law bans abortion at any stage, with no exceptions for rape or incest and limited exceptions for medical emergencies.
“My doctor informed me that if I chose to stay pregnant, I would be putting my own life at risk,” Phillips said in her campaign video. “I had to make the hard decision to terminate my pregnancy — and Tennessee law made it impossible to get it here.”
Despite the medical necessity of an abortion, Phillips was told she needed to leave the state to access care. The state’s abortion ban is vague in its exceptions and threatens physicians with felony charges if they break the law. This often discourages doctors from performing any abortions, even those that fall within the ban’s exceptions.
After calling several clinics, then booking flights and hotels, Phillips was able to travel to New York to get an abortion. But she was forced to grieve her pregnancy loss alone.
“I was in a city I’ve never been in, far away from my family, friends, doctors, caregivers,” Phillips said on TikTok. “I was in that clinic alone. I was told my daughter’s heart had stopped alone. I went into surgery and came out alone. Nobody, nobody should have to go through something like that alone.”
Now, Phillips is running for office in an attempt to change the severe abortion restrictions in place in her home state. Although the general election is not until November 2024, Phillips, who is running as a Democrat, needs time to gain support in a historically red district. If she wins the Democratic nomination in the August 2024 primary, Phillips will likely face off with incumbent Jeff Burkhart.
Phillips has shared her story dozens of times, including as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last month by the Center for Reproductive Rights against the state of Tennessee. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed lawsuits in three states, including Tennessee, on behalf of women who were denied medically necessary abortions.
“No one should have to be at death’s door to receive essential health care, but that is exactly what happens when doctors are forced to practice medicine under threat of imprisonment,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press statement last month when the suits were filed.
“Abortion bans across the nation are exposing pregnant people to risks of death, illness, and injury, including loss of fertility,” Northup said. “The women standing up today survived, but it is only a matter of time before someone does not.”