New Tennessee Abortion Law Addresses Ultrasounds — But Won’t Mandate Them | Nashville Public Radio

New Tennessee Abortion Law Addresses Ultrasounds — But Won’t Mandate Them

Jan 2, 2019

As of Jan. 1, Tennessee has a new law related to ultrasounds prior to receiving abortions. The law is a result of compromise within Tennessee's pro-life movement.

This legislation started out as a ban on abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which could be at eight weeks or earlier.

"The reality is that this policy was a compromise to stop movement of an unconstitutional heartbeat ban which would have been immediately enjoined and struck down," Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris says in an email.

What ended up in the law is substantially different than the original bill.

  • The state will only start tracking whether there is a heartbeat before an abortion, but the woman will not have to hear it.
  • The law also says if ultrasound images are taken, the woman should be offered the chance to see it, but only if she wants to.
  • Tennessee won't mandate ultrasounds, as several neighboring states have done.

Bill sponsor Rep. Micah VanHuss, R-Jonesborough, told his colleagues while making his case for the bill last February that he still thought it would lead to fewer abortions. But he was challenged by Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, about whether the new rules disregard the anguish of a woman considering abortion.

"I think we have a duty to protect the wellbeing of everyone," Clemmons said.

But VanHuss said he is an unapologetic advocate for the unborn.

"My concern is not with the emotional health of a person seeking an abortion," he said. "My concern is with the physical health of the baby inside."