Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee hopes to join a growing list of states that are trying to protect unborn babies from abortion once their heartbeats are detectable.
On Thursday, the Republican governor outlined his pro-life priorities for the new legislative session, including the heartbeat measure and a ban on sex-selection abortions, WSMV News 4 reports.
“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” Lee said. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”
The legislation has not been introduced yet, but Lee described a comprehensive pro-life bill that would include a prohibition on abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy; a requirement that mothers undergo an ultrasound prior to the abortion; and a ban on discriminatory abortions based on the unborn baby’s sex, race or disability, according to the report.
The governor’s office said they plan to model the legislation after a 2019 Missouri law that created a “ladder” of abortion bans that would go into effect in the case of an almost certain legal challenge.
Republican lawmakers praised the governor’s commitment to protecting babies in the womb. In a statement, House Speaker Cameron Sexton said they also want to make Tennessee a strong pro-life state.
“Obviously, we are very supportive and appreciative of the Governor’s dedication to pro-life principles,” Sexton said. “We are looking forward to working with him and his team on this issue, as well as his legislative vision. I know members of the House and the chairmen are eager to review the proposed language and continue their strong support for life.”
Tennessee Right to Life thanked Lee for being committed to protecting unborn babies.
“We are grateful to live in a pro-life state where voters approved a constitutional amendment making pro-life policies possible,” said Will Brewer, director of government affairs for the pro-life organization. “We’re also grateful for a pro-life governor and look forward to seeing the language of the bill.”
But state Democrat leaders quickly blasted the proposed legislation.
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State Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini issued a statement Thursday criticizing the governor for trying to get in the way of “the decision to end a pregnancy,” News Channel 5 Nashville reports.
“This is always a heart wrenching decision and must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, in consultation with her doctor or health care provider,” Mancini said. “If Republicans were acting in the best interests of women and families they would put forth real solutions. They would work with Democrats to legitimately reduce the number of unintended pregnancies through policy that will actually work.”
If the legislation passes, it almost certainly would face a legal challenge from the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups already have succeeded in blocking every heartbeat law that passed in 2019, as well as other life-saving legislation.
The U.S. Supreme Court took away states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion through Roe v. Wade. The infamous ruling allows states to legalize abortions for any reason up to birth, and prohibits states from restricting abortions prior to viability. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.
Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.