Tennessee Attorney General Questions Constitutionality Of Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Attorney General Questions Constitutionality Of Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Mar 2, 2017

In one of several signs of trouble for the idea, Tennessee's attorney general says a proposed ban on abortions once a heartbeat can be detected is "constitutionally suspect." The proposal was debated this week in the state legislature.

From the Office of the Attorney General, sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey:

Senate Bill 244/House Bill 108, 110th Tenn. Gen. Assem. (2017), filed in January 2017, would make certain changes to Tennessee’s criminal abortion statute. While some of the proposed changes are constitutionally defensible, the proposed prohibition on abortion, absent a medical emergency, after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and before viability of the fetus, is constitutionally suspect.

The goal of the proposal is to ban abortion just weeks after conception. Not even Tennessee Right to Life thinks that's a good idea right now, and that group opposes all abortions, except to protect the life of the mother.*

More: See the summary of HB 108, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough

"Our day is coming, but we have to be disciplined. We have to be measured in our approach," Right to Life leader Brian Harris said on Wednesday during a committee hearing on the legislation.

Lobbyists say a ban that goes too far will likely wind up being reviewed by judges who support abortion rights.

So Harris is urging anti-abortion lawmakers to hold off until President Trump's administration and Congress can appoint more judges that agree with them.

The attorney general's opinion (which can be viewed here) seems to back Harris up. It makes it less likely any stringent anti-abortion measures pass the state legislature this year.

* This post has been updated to clarify Tennessee Right to Life supports allowing abortions to save the physical life of the mother. House Bill 108 also makes an exception for "medical emergency."