Tennessee Committee Passes Pro-Life Bill to Ban Abortions Once Roe is Overturned

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Apr 10, 2019   |   3:53PM   |   Nashville, Tennessee

A Tennessee House committee moved forward with a bill Wednesday that would ban abortions completely in the state once Roe v. Wade is overturned.

The state House Health Committee voted 12-4 to advance the Human Life Protection Act, according to the Times Free Press. Pro-life Republicans resurrected the bill after two Republicans joined Democrats in rejecting the bill in a subcommittee vote in March.

The Human Life Protection Act (SB 1257 / HB 1029), supported by Tennessee Right to Life, would restore full legal protections for unborn babies in Tennessee once the U.S. Supreme Court either fully or partially overturns Roe v. Wade. It would make abortions a felony in the state criminal code, but it would allow exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk. The felony charges would apply to abortionists but not pregnant mothers.

When state Rep. Susan Lynn introduced the bill in February, she said she wants Tennessee to be known for protecting its children.

“It has always been the priority of Tennessee’s pro-life movement to restore protection to the largest number of unborn children and women in our state,” Lynn said. “While states like New York are moving to strip any limits to abortion–even at the moments just before birth—Tennessee wants to be known for protecting our children.”

A number of states are considering similar legislation this spring. In February, Arkansas became the fifth state to pass a law to immediately ban abortions if Roe is overturned. The others are Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. Kentucky and Missouri also are considering bills to do the same thing.

The bill and another pro-life bill to ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable have been a subject of contention among pro-life Tennessee lawmakers. Two Republicans who support the heartbeat bill joined Democrats in voting against the other abortion ban in March; they did not explain why they voted against the Human Life Protection Act.

On Tuesday, the AP reported the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted to delay the heartbeat bill until next summer because of concerns that it would be blocked in court and never actually save any babies’ lives.

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Here’s more from the local news:

Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that although the heartbeat bill was brought “with the best of intentions … to be successful in the fight to protect the unborn, strong conviction is not enough.

“We must also have the proper legal and constitutional strategy,” Bell said as reported in The Tennessean. “I can assure you the left will use every legal means at their disposal to ensure abortion remains legal, unrestricted and readily available. We must do likewise to prevent it.”

The Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe. The infamous case made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks. The ruling continues to prevent states from enforcing protections for the unborn, such as laws that ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider laws that ban abortions, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain – especially after Chief Justice John Roberts recently sided with the liberal justices on an abortion case.