Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB 244)
This law was last updated on May 9, 2019
SB 244 would prohibit all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, except in the case of a medical emergency.
A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy—two weeks after a woman’s first missed period—and well before many women even realize that they are pregnant.
The bill would require a physician to first determine whether the fetus the pregnant patient is carrying has a detectable heartbeat. An ultrasound would be required to determine the presence of a fetal heartbeat and such testing must be consistent with “standard medical practice.” At the same time, the provision states that a transvaginal ultrasound is not required, which might be a source of confusion for abortion providers attempting to comply with this bill.
The person who determines the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat would be required to:
- Record in the pregnant patient’s medical record the estimated gestational age of the fetus, the ultrasound method used to test for a fetal heartbeat, the date and time of the test, and the results of the test; and
- Inform the pregnant patient in writing if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The person who performs the ultrasound for the presence of a fetal heartbeat would be required to give the pregnant patient the option to view or hear the fetal heartbeat.
A physician who performs an abortion or attempts to procure a miscarriage after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and before or during viability under the medical emergency exception would be required to declare the following in a written statement to be placed in the patient’s medical records:
- That the procedure is necessary, to the best of the physician’s reasonable medical judgement, due to a medical emergency; and
- The specific condition that constitutes the medical emergency and that the procedure is asserted to address, and the medical rationale for the physician’s conclusion that the procedure is necessary to address the medical emergency.
A physician who performs an abortion or attempts to procure a miscarriage prior to determining a fetal heartbeat due to a medical emergency would be required to note the following in the patient’s medical records:
- The physician’s belief that a medical emergency necessitating the procedure existed; and
- The condition of the pregnant patient that prevented compliance.
If passed, the law would take effect on July 1, 2017.
Companion bill to HB 108.