Nashville, Tennessee: The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected.
The legislation passed 66 to 21 during a vote Thursday morning. Seven representatives declined to vote.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), already has backing from Governor Bill Lee. According to people from both sides of the issue, a fetal heartbeat can be detected in a pregnancy in as early as six weeks.
It would be a felony for a medical provider to give one after that point.
“We are Tennesseans. If everyone else does what’s wrong, we do what’s right,” said Rep. Van Huss. “Put Tennessee in the fight for the unborn.”
An amendment was added to the bill that would uphold Tennessee’s current ban on abortions should this new law be struck down in the courts.
Opponents of the bill say most women find out they’re pregnant at about the same time the heartbeat is detected. Democrats tried to bring another amendment to add stipulations for women whose pregnancy is the result of a rape or incest, but the House wouldn’t hear it.
According to speaker of the house, Glen Casada, a parliamentary procedure interrupted discussions and kept the Democrats from presenting that amendment.
“I had a timely filed amendment that would recognize victims of rape and incest in this legislation. For some reason, after the recess, they decided they were not going to hear my amendment,” said Knoxville Democrat representative Gloria Johnson. “It was not an oversight by any stretch of the imagination.”
Johnson said she wasn’t the only one silenced today, but women in general in Tennessee.
From here, it moves on to the State Senate for a vote. If it passes, Governor Bill Lee would have to sign it for it to become law.
Opponents also say the constitutionality of the bill is questionable. Hedy Weinberg, spokesperson for ACLU-TN, released this statement following the bill’s passage.
“The House of Representative’s passage today of this dangerous, unconstitutional bill has simply moved Tennessee one step closer to a lawsuit. Tennessee politicians should be less concerned about interfering with a woman’s decisions regarding what is best for her health and her family and more concerned with providing her access to comprehensive health care. With our partners, we are working to stop this bill in the Senate. However, should it be signed into law, the ACLU of Tennessee and our client are prepared to file a lawsuit immediately.”
The bill provides an exception for medical emergencies that may require an abortion. The bill also states that when the fetal heartbeat is detected, the person who discovers the heartbeat must “[r]ecord in the pregnant woman’s medical record the estimated gestational age of the fetus,” record various details of the fetal heartbeat test, and “[o]ffer to the pregnant woman, either in person or by telephone, the results of the ultrasound, including if a fetal heartbeat is detected.”
States across the US are approving similar “heartbeat bills.” A Georgia House Committee approved a similar bill on Wednesday. Two “Personhood Acts” were introduced in the South Carolina legislature earlier last month that would criminalize receiving or performing an abortion.