Spate of Anti-Choice Bills Pushed in Tennessee Legislature

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Spate of Anti-Choice Bills Pushed in Tennessee Legislature

Teddy Wilson

A Tennessee house committee passed two bills that would restrict access to abortion care in the state. Among the bills considered priories by anti-choice policymakers are those designed to reinstate laws struck down by the state supreme court ruling in 2000.

A Tennessee house committee passed two bills that would restrict access to abortion care in the state.

These are the first bills that have been taken under consideration by the state legislature since Tennessee voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that allows state lawmakers to pass laws regulating abortion.

Several bills intended to restrict abortion have been introduced in the state legislature since the passage of the amendment.

Among the bills considered priories by anti-choice policymakers are those designed to reinstate laws struck down by the state supreme court ruling in 2000. However, questions remain regarding whether legislation passed to reinstate those restrictions would remain constitutional due to the standards by which the state supreme court struck down those laws.

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Two bill were passed by the Tennessee House Health Subcommittee, including a bill to create a 48-hour waiting period before a pregnant person can have an abortion and a bill that would require clinics that provide abortion care to be regulated as ambulatory surgical centers.

Both bills would reinstate laws struck down by the state supreme court 15 years ago.

The subcommittee did not vote on another bill to require women to be forced to have an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale), would require a physician to perform an ultrasound between 24 to 72 hours prior to performing an abortion.

Womick told the Nashville Tennessean that he plans to amend the legislation, to require the ultrasound but allow women to choose not to view the ultrasound or hear the fetal heartbeat. The current bill requires the physician to describe the image and make the images and audio available to women seeking abortions.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) said he’s concerned about bills that were not restoring laws struck down by the state supreme court. “I’m not saying it’s not [constitutional], but I think our folks have some concerns there and we’ll be digging into that,” Haslam said, reported the Associated Press.

HB 977, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), was amended to require a 48-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion.

Hill said the bill is not intended to prevent women from obtaining abortion care, but to give women a chance “to consider other options for the well-being of herself and her unborn child,” reported the Tennessean.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) countered Hill, and said the bill would place an additional burden on women seeking abortion care by requiring two trips to an abortion provider instead of one. “There seems to be a misunderstanding that a lady who decides to get an abortion…can simply wake up and have an abortion,” said Clemmons, the Tennessean reported.

HB 1368, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), would require facilities or physicians’ offices in which more than 50 abortions are performed in a calendar year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers, and required such offices to convert into mini-hospitals.

Both bills have companion bills, SB 1222 and SB 1280, that await senate judiciary committee hearings.

Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) said the bills under consideration would complicate life for women already facing difficult decisions.

“Women should be left to make their own decisions with their families, their doctors and their faith—not meddling politicians,” Kyle said in statement. “Instead of playing politics with health care, we should talk about the things that would change lives, like better access to prenatal care.”