Tennessee Lawmakers Delay Vote on Bill to Ban Late-Term Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 13, 2017   |   12:15PM   |   Nashville, TN

Tennessee lawmakers delayed a vote on a bill to ban late-term abortions Wednesday after the state attorney general questioned whether it is constitutional.

The bill, the Tennessee Infants Protection Act, would protect viable, late-term unborn babies from abortion in the state. It would prohibit abortions at and after 24 weeks, and require abortion clinics to assess whether an unborn child is viable starting at 20 weeks. If the unborn baby is determined to be viable, that abortion also would be illegal.

The Tennessean reports a state House subcommittee scheduled a vote on the bill Wednesday but delayed it because of state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s opinion. The House lawmakers said they want time to study the opinion before voting.

The bill is scheduled to be heard again next week in the committee.

Here’s more from the report:

The bill looked well on its way to passing through the House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday before Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, asked sponsor Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, if there was an attorney general’s opinion on the bill.

Hill responded that there was, but he had not read the full opinion yet. The committee members also said they had not read the report, and they did not feel comfortable advancing the bill until they all had time to properly study it. The opinion has been available at the website of the attorney general’s office since March 31. …

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“I would not carry something that I know is unconstitutional,” Hill responded, then suggesting representatives of the attorney general’s office explain the opinion to lawmakers.

In his legal opinion, Slatery said the bill is “constitutionally suspect.” Part of his problem is that there is a “lack of broad ‘health’ exceptions which would allow late term abortions for women who suffer ‘mental and emotional harm’ from carrying the pregnancy to term,” according to Tennessee Right to Life.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, said they are confident that the bill will pass and protect unborn babies.

“Our legislature and governor are overwhelmingly pro-life and they favor doing everything possible to protect vulnerable life,” Harris told LifeNews. “The Infants Protection Act has been passed in other states without legal challenge and it is the natural next step toward building full legal protection for unborn children in Tennessee. We look forward to its passage and enforcement.”

Quite a few states already have laws in place that prohibit abortions after 20 to 24 weeks. Currently, 16 states prohibit abortions after 20 weeks when strong scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can feel pain. Only a few have faced legal challenges.

A few states still allow abortions for any reason up until birth. Late-term abortion practices are operating legally in New Mexico, Maryland, Colorado and California.