Monday, March 2, 2020

Lawmakers to Consider Slew of Anti-Abortion Bills Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 2:27 PM

click to enlarge Pro-choice advocates rally to keep abortion legal
  • Pro-choice advocates rally to keep abortion legal

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wants to make it a Class C felony to perform an abortion in the state. State lawmakers will consider this and three other pieces of anti-abortion legislation Tuesday.

The governor’s proposal is an amendment to SB 2196. That bill is intended to delay the trial of a physician accused of performing a “partial-birth” abortion in order for the state medical board to determine if the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother.

The amendment to the bill has not yet been posted to the Tennessee General Assembly website, but was obtained Friday by Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi (PPTNM).

Ashley Coffield, CEO of PPTNM, said the governor is proposing “one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country.”

“This is nothing short of a total assault on women,” Coffield said. “This is a fight for our lives, and we will put everything we have into defeating this legislation.”

The 31-page amendment repeatedly states that Tennessee “has a legitimate, substantial, and compelling interest in protecting the rights of all human beings, including the fundamental and absolute right of unborn human beings to life, liberty, and all rights protected by the (14th) and (9th) Amendments.”

Specifically, the legislation would make it unlawful to perform an abortion on a woman where a fetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy. The bill also includes bans at several stages throughout the pregnancy from six weeks to 24 weeks if the heartbeat provision is struck down in court.

Violation of the law for physicians would result in a Class C Felony, which according to Tennessee Code Annotated, could result in a three-to-five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000. The law would not punish women who seek abortions. 

“Politicians are putting the health and lives of Tennessee women at risk,” Coffield said. “These bans on safe, legal abortion will have real costs — expensive legal costs and human costs for the women and families who need reproductive health care. Banning abortion does not eliminate abortion. It makes it illegal and unsafe.”

The legislation would also ban abortions based on the race, sex, or potential disability of the child. The bill also includes a provision that would require physicians to show women their ultrasound, give a description of the fetus, and play the fetal heartbeat before a women can choose to have an abortion.

“The unique nature of abortion and its potential physical and mental health risks, as well as the ultimate result of the death of an unborn child, necessitates that this state ensure every woman considering an abortion is provided with adequate comprehensive information before deciding to obtain an abortion,” reads the amendment.

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary committee is slated to discuss this legislation and three other pieces of anti-abortion legislation Tuesday, March 3rd beginning at 3 p.m.

The committee will also discuss SB1236, which like the aforementioned legislation, prohibits abortion from the time a fetal heartbeat is detected, unless there is a medical emergency warranting the abortion. It will also hear SB1780, referred to as the Rule of Life Act. This act essentially seeks to group the rights of unborn children under the 9th Amendment, and “recognize the balance of priorities between the life of unborn persons and abortion set forth in the State’s Constitution.”

The act states that life begins at conception at the time the egg is fertilized and that a pregnancy is viable at the time a heartbeat can be detected.

Also on Tuesday at 9 a.m., in the the House Health committee, legislators will discuss HB 2568, which would require clinics that performed more than 50 abortions in the past year to inform patients that chemical abortion is reversible after the first dose of the two-dose treatment.

A PPTNM petition to lawmakers calls this bill dangerous and worries it will force physicians to provide patients with “medically inaccurate, misleading” information that could harm a patient’s health.

“Lawmakers like you should focus on expanding healthcare access in the state, not denying it,” the petition reads. “Women’s health and lives should not be used as political pawns for anti-choice politicians to cater to anti-choice interest groups. Given Tennessee’s high rates of infant mortality, unintended pregnancy and teen births, it is time to focus on legislation that would increase access to preventive care, not ban access to critical healthcare.”

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