NASHVILLE — House Bill 0077 which would ban most Tennessee women from obtaining abortions once a fetus’ heartbeat is detected passed the Tennessee State Health Committee Tuesday, advancing for a full House vote in the GOP-dominated Legislature.
The vote coincided with a previously scheduled Planned Parenthood Day on the Hill. Many grassroots Pro-life advocates were on hand to show their support for the bill. A vast majority of the House Health Committee members were co-sponsors of the bill, which was obvious of the bill’s passage. The debate lasted for almost an hour before the roll call vote was taken then heard with a resounding round of applause. The vote was along party lines.
“This is an issue that has been on my heart my whole life,” said Rep. Micah Van Huss, a Republican sponsoring the bill, during Tuesday’s hearing. “I aim to save babies lives.”
Tennessee is among several states with pending bills to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected which is about six weeks into pregnancy. The bill could offer a legal challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion and possibly upend the ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion.
The legislation has to pass the House floor and the Senate, the bill is expected to win support from Republicans. Gov. Bill Lee has promised his support if the bill reaches his desk in the next few weeks.
Advocates on both sides of the argument filled the committee room to see legislators debate over possible legal challenges. The discussions including situations of women being forced to carry a baby to term even in cases of rape or incest.
Only Democratic members voted against the proposal. They include Memphis Rep. Barbara Cooper, who expressed concern to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough, that the measure offers no exceptions for victims of sexual assault.
“Are you stating that even in the case of rape, incest, that you are banning or prohibiting an abortion?” Cooper asked.
“I am. I do not think, Mrs. Cooper, that you would think that killing babies is the right thing to do,” Van Huss replied.
“I have three girls. I’ve raised them to be independent so no boy tells them what to do. Well, except for me,” said Democratic Rep. Darren Jernigan. “But I’ve also said they’re in control of their bodies and it bothers me the government would tell them what to do and it bothers me the bill is likely unconstitutional.”
When asked if it would be acceptable for a 15-year-old student who was raped by her coach to be barred from having an abortion if she was past the six-week viability marker because a fetus’s heartbeat was detected, Van Huss simply said ‘yes.’
“A woman should be able to make decisions about what is best for her health and her family in consultation with her doctor and her loved ones, without politicians interfering or trying to force her hand,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee…..Weinberg added in a statement: “If this bill passes, the ACLU of Tennessee stands ready to file a lawsuit immediately.”
At he close of the meeting many were heard breaking out in offering supports with cheers in response to lawmakers’ comments.