Tennessee lawmakers haven't given up on their attempt to pass a devastating abortion ban in the state. This week, lawmakers held a round of specially convened hearings to discuss legislation that would would ban abortion procedures as early as 6 weeks in pregnancy (a so-called "heartbeat" bill), despite the fact that similar laws have been blocked by courts repeatedly.
At this week’s hearings with the state’s judiciary committee, lawmakers also debated an amendment to the bill, SB 1236, which takes things a step further by banning abortions “when a viable pregnancy is presumed to exist or has been confirmed.” The amendment would essentially ban all abortion in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest, despite the fact that a similar bill in Alabama has been challenged in federal court.
The next time lawmakers will get to vote on it is January 2020 when the state’s legislature reconvenes, according to The Tennessean. But reproductive rights advocates in the state have already begun their offensive because of the threat posed by the bill.
“Anti-choice lawmakers are determined to gut Roe v. Wade, despite Roe being more popular than ever with the American public. As out-of-touch lawmakers follow Donald Trump’s lead to criminalize abortion, the vast majority of Americans believe that abortion is a matter of personal freedom that should be free from political interference,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Vice President Adrienne Kimmell said in a statement provided to Refinery29. Kimmell added that such legislative measure puts “politicians’ cruelty on full display.”
The Tennessee legislation, if passed, would move up the standard of viability to when a fetal heartbeat is detected, or on the presence of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which can detectable in blood as early as 10 days after conception. Most people are unaware that they are pregnant by either point. The current standard for viability, outlined in Roe v. Wade, is 24 weeks.
Under the amendment, the only exception will be if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk, and non-compliant abortion providers could be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
SB 1236 is part of a larger wave of anti-abortion legislation that has passed at the state level with the ultimate goal of undermining or overturning Roe. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a total of 58 abortion restrictions, including 26 abortion bans, have been enacted across 19 states in the first six months of 2019.
Refinery29 reached out to the bill's sponsor Sen. Mark Pody and will update this article if we hear back.