The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that seeks to ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, marking a significant push to expand abortion restrictions in the state.
Exceptions are permitted only “in a medical emergency that necessitates an immediate abortion of a woman’s pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function,” according to the legislation.
A heartbeat typically becomes detectable between six and nine weeks of gestation. Many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks.
“Colleagues, we cannot continue to allow the slaughter of the unborn while we hope for better circumstances,” the measure’s sponsor, Republican Tennessee Rep. Micah Van Huss, said on the House floor Thursday, according to the Tennessean.
“Most women who are pregnant at six weeks don’t even know they’re pregnant yet, so this takes away any chance they have to make their own medical decisions,” Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi spokeswoman, Aimee Lewis, said, according to The New York Times. “This law is unconstitutional and it is a waste of taxpayer dollars because the only thing it will actually result in is litigation.”
Planned Parenthood will sue if the bill is signed into law, according to Lewis.
“Tennessee politicians should be less concerned about interfering with a woman’s decisions regarding what is best for her health and her family and more concerned with providing her access to comprehensive health care,” the Tennessee ACLU said in a Thursday statement. The group also called the bill “dangerous” and “unconstitutional.”
Passage of the bill through the Tennessee House comes after a Georgia House committee approved a bill Wednesday that seeks to ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected. The Missouri House also passed a bill Feb. 27 banning abortions in the presence of a fetal heartbeat.
Arkansas, North Dakota and Iowa have passed similar heartbeat abortion bans but have faced injunctions and court orders preventing them from enforcing the bans.
The bill’s approval comes after the Trump administration issued a final rule on Feb. 22 barring Title X funds from supporting programs and organizations that provide abortions and abortion referrals. Title X is a federal grant program that provides individuals with “comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The rule mandates abortion clinics and family planning clinics are separate, both physically and financially.
Americans are split down the middle on abortion, with 47 percent of Americans identifying as pro-life and 47 percent identifying as pro-choice, according to a February Marist poll.
The Tennessee heartbeat bill will head to the Senate for a vote.
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