Black woman’s mic cut off during testimony against Tennessee abortion ban in viral video

Online footage that went viral this week shows the moment a black advocate’s microphone was cut off as she testified before Tennessee’s Senate Judiciary Committee against legislation that seeks to ban abortions in the state once a fetus’s heartbeat is detectable. 

SisterReach CEO Cherisse Scott, whose nonprofit organization works to fight for the reproductive autonomy of girls and women of color in Tennessee, was one of a list of witnesses who were scheduled to discuss their positions on the bill with state senators at a hearing earlier this month.

{mosads}In footage from her testimony, Scott said she was testifying on behalf of “the thousands of honorable people in Tennessee who would be hurt by Senate Bill 1236,” which she said, for many, “is the final straw in a political pattern of vile racist un-American and un-Christian legislation that has come from the majority of this body’s leadership.”

“You’ve denied us the opportunity for every member of our families to live and then claim to be pro-life. You have cherry-picked the parts of this state that would expand its behavioral and mental health services and then race to put sick people who struggle with substance use disorder in prison and take away their children while claiming to care about babies and families,” she continued. 

Several minutes into Scott’s remarks, panel Chairman Mike Bell (R) began to cut her off as she started to take aim at what she called the lawmakers’ “colonialists-supremacist ideologies.” 

“You’ve manipulated biblical scripture to align with your colonialist-supremacist ideologies instead of showing mercy and using the power of your political party to liberate each of us—” Scott said as Bell began to interject.

“That’s — that’s enough,” Bell could be heard saying after striking down his gavel.

“Your time is up,” he said repeatedly before calling for Scott to be escorted out of the room.

“I have watched you all allow people to talk and talk, but you won’t allow me to talk as a Christian because I disagree with the way that you believe?” she asked. 

“The only reason I am here, sir, is because somebody taught me about my body,” she continued as staffers attempted to escort her from her chair. “I’ve not gone over my time. I’ve not gone off my subject at all. These are intersections that inform abortion. These are intersections that inform why people have abortions.”

Once her microphone was cut off, she pressed on, saying, “it is your responsibility to make sure that every Tennesseean has access to comprehensive information so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Scott talked about the experience in an interview with Vice released on Thursday, saying she was cut off before her allotted 10 minutes were up.

“But I had timed myself, so I knew I had enough time, and the other people who had spoken before me took 15, 20, even 30 minutes, with additional time for the committee to ask them questions. Then he motioned for the [sergeant-in-arms] to cut off my mic and remove me,” she said.

Scott, who was reportedly the only black woman to serve as a witness at the hearing, also explained her decision to address white supremacy and colonialism in her testimony.

“When we’re talking about abortion bans, especially in the South, it’s important to remember the history of how America was founded. Black women have never had full autonomy over our bodies or self-determination over whether to be a parent or not. We’re still living in a culture of supremacy and colonialism,” she said. 


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