(The Center Square) – The Tennessee House on Thursday passed an anti-abortion heartbeat bill, making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which occurs about five or six weeks into a pregnancy.
“Abortion is an archaic and barbaric medical procedure,” Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said on the House floor. “No one should lose sight of the fact that a baby is gruesomely torn apart as part of this procedure.”
Although similar bills in other states have been struck down by courts for violating Roe v. Wade and other abortion law precedent, the Tennessee bill takes a unique approach to try and get around that.
House Bill 2263 creates a laddered approach, which means if the five-to-six-week mark is ruled unconstitutional, a ban on abortions at later stages would go into effect incrementally until the law hits 24 weeks.
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said this structure makes Tennessee’s bill one of the strongest in the nation. He said the legislation will force the courts to revisit the science, which has developed a lot since Roe v. Wade was decided, and potentially set an earlier marker for when abortions can be banned.
Although the bill had support from the Republican majority, it received opposition from Democrats.
“I do not need legislators in my doctor’s office,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said.
Johnson said the legislation is ultimately about women’s rights. She said not believing women have the right to make a choice on abortion means a person does not believe women are equal.
The Senate has a similar bill in the committee process, but the chamber has focused mostly on budgetary concerns and COVID-19-related bills.