Tennessee lawmakers moved forward a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit abortions on unborn babies after 20 weeks.
The state House health committee approved the bill Tuesday, moving it to the full state House for a vote, according to The Tennessean.
Tennessee House Bill 1189 would protect unborn babies after 20 weeks from painful, late-term abortions. Strong scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks, if not earlier.
Currently, 16 states have pain-capable unborn child protection laws in effect, Kentucky being the most recent. Tennessee is one of several states currently considering similar laws.
Here’s more from the local news:
The House sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said the legislation takes aim at physicians, not women, by attaching a felony criminal charge to violations of the law.
“We’re talking about the physician not acting properly, we’re not talking about what the mother is talking about when it comes to visiting with their physician and making medical decisions,” he said.
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The bill, if passed and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, would create a Class C felony for doctors who perform an abortion when the fetus is deemed viable, which is defined in the bill as when the unborn child could survive “outside the womb with or without medical assistance.”
Doctors would also have to certify in writing that the fetus is not viable or get a second opinion in writing from another doctor.
Several Democrats spoke out against the legislation, accusing the state of trying to cut away at women’s so-called right to abort their unborn babies.
Hadleigh Tweedall, a woman who testified against the bill in committee, claimed the late-term abortion ban would be “cruel” to women who learn of a poor prenatal diagnosis later in their pregnancy.
Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain at 20 weeks, researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks or earlier. Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.
At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.
Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University, told a U.S. Senate committee last year that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20 week stage when performing surgery, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”
“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.
The new 20-week abortion bans potentially are saving thousands of babies from painful, late-term abortions. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.