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Amended ‘heartbeat bill’ passes Senate committee

Xavier Smith • Apr 4, 2018 at 1:50 PM

A bill originally introduced to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday after it was amended.

“I would like to run the original bill, however, we have an amendment that I think has been worked out with many parties,” said Senate sponsor Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon.

The amendment would require the person who performs the ultrasound to offer the woman the opportunity to learn the results of the ultrasound prior to the abortion. If the woman wants to learn the results of the ultrasound, the person would inform the woman the results.

The original bill would conflict with the 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, which legally permitted abortions until fetal viability, or around 24 weeks.

The bill was met with opposition from both sides of the issue, including Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, who called the legislation “constitutionally suspect” last year.

“While some of the proposed changes are constitutionally defensible, the proposed prohibition on abortion, absent a medical emergency after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and before viability of the fetus, is constitutionally suspect,” Slatery said.

Van Huss said he saw President Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, as well as Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia’s death, as an opportunity to introduce legislation aimed at abortions.

“I am hopeful, with President Trump appointing pro-life conservatives to the Supreme Court, that if this legislation would ever make it that far, that those folks would rule in favor of pro-life citizens,” Van Huss said last year.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed an abortion bill in 2016 that made it law for any woman who seeks an abortion to undergo a waiting period after receiving information from a physician.

The bill, sponsored by former Sen. Mae Beavers, said a physician couldn’t perform an abortion until 48 hours after the patient was informed orally and in person about certain facts.

The facts include pregnancy confirmation, the number of private and public agencies and services available to assist the patient during and after birth if she chooses not to have an abortion, risks of pregnancy and abortion and approximate gestational age of the fetus.

If any court rules the 48-hour stipulation unconstitutional, the waiting period would change to 24 hours after the information is delivered to the patient.

The bill also requires physicians who perform abortion procedures to keep records of each procedure for at least five years.

Haslam also signed a bill in 2016 sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, which toughened the ability of medical facilities to legally perform abortions. Each medical facility that performs 50 or more abortions a year must receive state certification as an ambulatory surgical treatment center. 

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