The Tennessee House of Representatives this morning voted 65-21 in favor of an amended “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat typically can be detected at about six weeks’ gestation.
Some of the amendments change language within the bill from “unborn child was not viable” to “the pregnancy was not viable.”
Knoxville Representative Jason Zachary, one of the measure’s co-sponsors, says changes in wording make the bill less contentious, but the courts haven’t ruled on the wording yet.
Last month, the House Health Committee voted 15-4 to advance the legislation for a full vote in the House.
The bill, which requires an ultrasound before a woman undergoes an abortion and would make the procedure illegal if a heartbeat is detected, still needs to pass in the Senate before it advances to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down similar bills as unconstitutional because abortion prior to viability is permitted.
Tennessee Right to Life has joined Tennessee’s Catholic bishops in calling the bill “a step backward” for the state’s pro-life efforts because the ban would no doubt be ruled unconstitutional.
Will Brewer, legislative liaison for Tennessee Right to Life, explained the group’s position. “There is stronger pro-life legislation to be passed and this will ultimately hurt the movement going forward,” he said, adding it strips pro-life legislation currently on the books, and “makes no provisions of what happens to those pro-life laws when it’s enjoined or struck down by the courts.”
While the group supports the premise of fetal-heartbeat detection as a cutoff for abortion, it believes this particular law would not withstand legal challenges.
Both TRTL and the Catholic bishops have said they instead support the Tennessee Life Protection Act, which would immediately ban abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.