Tennessee’s governor is pledging to sign a recently passed bill that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected and also prohibits abortions based on sex, race or a Down syndrome diagnosis.
The legislation, House Bill 2263 and Senate Bill 2196, passed the Tennessee House of Representatives 70-20 and the Senate 23-5, and now awaits action by Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican who championed the bill earlier this year and confirmed in a tweet he will sign it. He also thanked legislators who promoted it.
“One of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn,” Lee tweeted. “We have passed the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history.”
One of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) June 19, 2020
We have passed the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history and I am grateful to @ltgovmcnally, @CSexton25, @SenJohnson, @WilliamLamberth and members of our General Assembly for making the heartbeat bill law.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) June 19, 2020
The bill makes it a crime “to perform” an abortion “upon a pregnant woman whose unborn child has a fetal heartbeat,” according to the bill’s summary. A heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It requires doctors to offer the woman a chance to view an ultrasound or heart the heartbeat. (She can decline both.)
The bill prohibits doctors from performing an abortion if the woman seeking the abortion is doing so because of the baby’s sex, race or a prenatal diagnosis indicating the child will be born with Down syndrome.
The bill says the pregnant woman “is not guilty” of a crime if an illegal abortion is performed.
Further, the bill requires that doctors tell a woman undergoing a chemical abortion that “it may be possible to reverse” the process if she charges her mind, although “time is of the essence.”
Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.
GOP Sen. Dolores Gresham, who supported the bill, said it “offers one of the nation’s strongest opportunities to protect the life of the unborn.” She applauded Lee earlier this year when he submitted the bill to the assembly.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week, seeking to have the bill struck down before it goes into effect.
“The courts have long held that politicians cannot interfere in someone else’s personal, private decision to end their pregnancy,” said Thomas H. Castelli of the ACLU of Tennessee. “... We filed this lawsuit because we cannot allow politicians who want to push abortion completely out of reach to implement yet another law that stands in the way of necessary, constitutionally-protected abortion care.”
Photo courtesy: Tennessee Government
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.