Tennessee Senate Committee Passes Bill to Ban Late-Term Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 20, 2017   |   1:05PM   |   Nashville, TN

A Tennessee Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday to protect viable, late-term unborn babies from abortions.

The bill, the Tennessee Infants Protection Act, would protect viable, late-term unborn babies from abortion in the state. It would prohibit abortions at 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 at that point, that abortion also would be illegal.

The legislation now moves to the full state Senate for consideration, the Associated Press reports.

The sponsor, state Sen. Joey Hensley, is a medical doctor and a Republican, according to the Times Free Press. He said the bill will protect viable, late-term babies in the womb from being aborted.

The Tennessean reports a state House subcommittee scheduled a vote on the bill April 12 but delayed it after state Attorney General Herbert Slatery described the bill as “constitutionally suspect.”

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.

Here’s more from the AP:

The bill defines a mother’s health as being threatened if she suffers “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” which directly or indirectly causes “the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” It would not apply to a woman’s mental health.

Hensley amended his bill to address some of the attorney general’s concerns in his previous opinion.

A lobbyist for the Tennessee chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said her organization was opposed to the bill. Critics say the proposal would put doctors at risk of criminal prosecution when they are using their best judgment.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, said they are confident that the legislation 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 last week. “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 at 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.

On Tuesday, the Iowa legislature passed a 20 week abortion ban. Gov. Terry Branstad, a pro-life Republican, is expected to sign it.