A bill that would outlaw most abortions in Tennessee if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 decision legalizing abortion is headed to Governor Bill Lee’s desk.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation yesterday; just a handful of Democrats voted against the measure. Lee has repeatedly promised to support any bill that limits abortion in the state.
Four other states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota – already have legislation that would trigger bans on abortion if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. Two other states – Kentucky and Missouri – are now considering similar bills.
The “trigger” ban would go into effect within 30 days of the high court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. It does include exceptions – but only for medical emergencies; not for rape or incest. Doctors in violation of the law would face felony charges.
Bill co-sponsor Susan Lynn, an Old Hickory Republican, expressed confidence that when Roe v. Wade is overturned, “we will return to a pro-life policy in this state.”
Dresden Republican Representative Andy Holt agreed. “We don’t have to apologize today,” he said. “We have science on our side to say, ‘That’s a life.’” Holt and his wife have six children and are currently expecting their seventh.
Opponents contend women should not be forced to potentially complete a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Further, some argued their attempt to include such exemptions was blocked in the Senate earlier Monday.
“What we know about a ban on abortion is that it doesn’t stop abortions, it stops safe abortions,” Knoxville Democrat Representative Gloria Johnson said, adding the issue is one of equality. “If women are not allowed to be in control of their own health decisions, then you don’t believe women are equal.”
Before voting on the ban, the Senate rejected a last-minute push Monday to revive the fetal-heartbeat bill, which could ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. While the “fetal-heartbeat ban” passed in the House, Senate leaders said it raised too many legal concerns.