A state bill that would essentially ban most abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat has cleared another legislative hurdle and now advances to the full House for a vote.
“This is an issue that has been on my heart my whole life,” said bill sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss. “I aim to save babies’ lives.”
The move is part of a nationwide effort by legislators hoping President Donald J. Trump’s Supreme Court appointments may eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.
Members of the House Health Committee voted 15-4 to send the legislation to the House floor for a full vote. Democrats were the only committee members who voted against the measure. While the bill must still clear the House and the Senate, it’s expected to win support from Republicans. Governor Bill Lee has promised his support if the bill reaches his desk.
Critics predict it would face legal challenges. An Iowa judge struck down a similar law last month. In Mississippi, a federal judge declared banning abortion after 15 weeks unconstitutional.
“I have three girls. I’ve raised them to be independent so no boy tells them what to do. Well, except for me,” said Democrat Rep. Darren Jernigan. “I’ve also said they’re in control of their bodies and it bothers me the government would tell them what to do and it bothers me the bill is likely unconstitutional.”
Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood Executive Director Francie Hunt said, “On the one hand, sensibly speaking, this is unconstitutional and it’s going to cost taxpayers dollars. While on the other hand, litigation would most surely help to uphold Roe v. Wade as the continued law of the land for women’s health and privacy protections.”
Tennessee Right to Life opposes the bill, on legal grounds. In 2017, the group said its opposition stemmed from Supreme Court rulings banning the criminalization of abortion before viability. This year, they’ve said Tennessee ought to let other states fight the legal battle.
Meanwhile, Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said, “A woman should be able to make decisions about what is best for her health and her family in consultation with her doctor and her loved ones, without politicians interfering or trying to force her hand.”
She cautioned if the bill passes, ACLU of Tennessee “stands ready to file a lawsuit immediately.”