Legislature gives final approval to ban on abortions after 20 weeks

The House voted 68-18 Wednesday to send the governor a bill that generally prohibits abortions in Tennessee after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Senate approved the measure with a 27-3 vote Monday and Gov. Bill Haslam is virtually certain to sign it.

The House vote, pretty much along partisan lines, came after defeat of Democrat-sponsored amendments, including one by Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville that would have excluded pregnancies involving rape or incest from the bill’s provisions.

“With this legislation we have an opportunity to show that we do protect and respect life in Tennessee,” said Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, House sponsor of the measure, in his closing comments after debate.

On the other side, Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said the measure is unfair to women and, “What you need to do is punish men who can’t keep their pants on and their zippers up.”’

Here’s an excerpt of WPLN’s report on the bill, written after it passed the Senate:

Senate Bill 1180 requires doctors to test for “viability” past 20 weeks and to refer women for a second opinion outside their practice. Abortions after 20 weeks would also have to be performed in a hospital with a neonatal unit, unless none exists within 30 miles.

The state’s attorney general has described the measure as “constitutionally suspect” because it would impose new requirements at a gestational age when survival of the fetus is unlikely. But his office has said that it would defend the measure in court, if called to do so.

Francie Hunt with Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood says it’s strange that supporters of the bill would make many of the same arguments for the measure that abortion rights groups make against it. She says if abortions past 20 weeks are rare, lawmakers should not force them to go through unnecessary testing.

“That’s cruel. Why would we do that? I think ultimately we need to leave it up to a woman, her family, faith and doctor, without any political interference.”

Some opponents of the measure argue it might even lead to more abortions. If expectant mothers think the child growing in their womb is not likely to survive, they may elect to go ahead and have an abortion before 20 weeks, rather than wait it out and see if there’s a chance of survival.

Note: A bill that would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected failed earlier in a House committee. See previous post HERE.

2 Responses to Legislature gives final approval to ban on abortions after 20 weeks

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    David A. Collins says:

    GREAT! Just when you think the republican super-majority in the legislature has already figured out all the ways to waste taxpayer money–they come up with a new way. Our gut-less AG, while admitting the law is probably unconstitutional, nonetheless says his office will defend it. Up in East Tennessee, Ramsey should be smiling. The State finally got an AG without the backbone to tell the legislature “No”. Republicans always forget that the AG is supposed to represent their client–all the people of Tennessee. He is not the personal counsel to the legislature required to waste money and resources trying in vain to defend all their brainless legislative ideas.

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    Michael Lottman says:

    This is a pointless, stupid, and unconstitutional bill and everyone involved knows it. The only purpose is to create a “wedge” issue and keep the voters fighting each other instead of focusing on the real issues, e.g., the state’s revenues can no longer meet the needs of its citizens, especially with the continued rejection of billions in Medicaid/Tenn Care expansion money and the passage of a negative appropriation law (costing more money than it raises) in order to appear to be addressing $10 billion in road and bridge repairs.

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