Abortion legislation update: ‘Heartbeat bill’ dies, monument to ‘unborn’ and defunding bills arise

The so-called “heartbeat bill,” perhaps the most controversial measure on abortions pending in the Legislature this year, fell by the wayside last week in a House subcommittee. But anti-abortion legislators came up with some new bills.

-Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) and Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) propose commissioning of a “Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children” that would be placed on state capitol grounds. (HB2381).

-Sen. Mike Bell (R-Athens) and Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) introduced HB2251 with the declared goal of defunding Planned Parenthood in Tennessee, though the filed bill does not do so directly.

Further from a Sam Stockard report:

By necessity, Rep. Micah Van Huss turned his “heartbeat bill” (which would have banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detcted) into an ultrasound reporting bill after failing to find the support to pass his proposal in a subcommittee.

Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) amended his legislation prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected and instead will give pregnant women the opportunity to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. If the ultrasound is given, the bill would require a post-abortion report indicating the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat be sent to the Department of Health for an annual report.

“Eighty percent of mothers who see an ultrasound before an abortion do no follow through with an abortion,” Van Huss told the House Health Subcommittee.

… Van Huss ran into opposition on his initial “heartbeat bill” from pro-life groups, including Tennessee Right to Life, which raised concerns that passing such a measure could hurt its legal efforts in the courts on other pro-life laws.

Rep. Bryan Terry, a Murfreesboro Republican who chairs the House Health Subcommittee, said Tennessee Right to Life supported Van Huss’ amended bill.

ACLU-Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said afterward gathering information is OK as long as it’s done anonymously… She pointed out Van Huss didn’t have enough votes to pass the “heartbeat bill,” which she said was “clearly unconstitutional.” The ACLU successfully sued two other states that passed similar legislation, Weinberg said.

… Matlock, who is running for the 2nd District Congressional seat, was joined by House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is running for governor, at a news conference on the proposed defunding bill.

Saying he uncovered $1 million in state and federal money going to abortion providers for TennCare services over the past six years, Matlock noted, “The narrative exists that we have fully defunded abortion providers from receiving Tennessee taxpayer dollars. The fact is that through the form of TennCare reimbursements, abortion providers still receive some Tennessee taxpayer money.”

The legislation would direct the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration to seek a waiver from the federal government to exclude abortion providers from reimbursements for services to TennCare patients. It would impact elective abortions only, according to Matlock.

Harwell… said the measure would not affect the availability of health-care services for low-income women who need services such as mammograms and prenatal health care.

“We are blessed in Tennessee with 89 wonderful county health clinics and six municipal health departments, along with world-class hospitals, nonprofits, religious organizations that offer every kind of care a woman may need,” Harwell said. “I have been a strong pro-life advocate during my entire tenure as a state representative, including Amendment 1, and I am supportive of this measure.”

Note: Previous post on the heartbeat bill HERE. The AP has a national overview of new abortion restrictions being pushed by Republican legislators in other states HERE.

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