The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill Monday night that would trigger a ban on abortions if the country’s highest court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The Human Life Protection Act (HB1029/SB1257) might be the only bill that restricts abortions that passes in this year’s legislative session.
The bill initially struggled to make it through the House, since many GOP lawmakers wanted something more restrictive, such as legislation that would banned abortions once a heartbeat has been detected.
But the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, said her bill would put the state in a better position to ban abortions should parts or all of Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“When the U.S. Supreme Court again allows states to decide abortion policy again, we will be in a position to restore the common sense protection that express pro-life views and sentiments of Tennesseans,” Lynn said Monday.
But some critics, such as Democratic Senator Raumesh Akbari, said the legislation really doesn’t do very much.
“For some folks it looks good to say they have this victory," Akbari said. "I think it’s more of a hollow one because it’s not going to do anything unless something else happens.”
The bill, which was backed by anti-abortion group Tennessee Right to Life, is headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.
Tennessee is not the only state to pass a bill like this. Arkansas and Kentucky have enacted similar laws this session.
'Heartbeat bill' loses again
Meanwhile, another anti-abortion measure, the so-called “fetal heartbeat bill,” (HB77/SB1236) lost a procedural vote last night to be heard on the state Senate floor. The measure had failed earlier this year in committee.
The proposal is intended to ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected in the womb, often as early as six weeks past gestation — a point when many woman don't know they're pregnant.
Critics of the measure include many anti-abortion lawmakers, like state Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, who said it would probably be overturned.
"Is this bill the right bill to lead us to victory in the Supreme Court? And that's a legitimate question that has to be asked. Because the wrong bill or a poorly worded bill can have devastating consequences."
The states of Ohio and Kentucky are already being sued for passing similar legislation. The measure in Tennessee will be held for further study over the summer and could be considered again next year.