Tennessee Lawmakers Remain Cautious On Abortion Bans Despite Laws Passed Across Country | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Lawmakers Remain Cautious On Abortion Bans Despite Laws Passed Across Country

Jun 3, 2019

Later this summer, Tennessee lawmakers will be trying again to find ways to tighten access to abortion in the state.

This comes amid a wave of anti-abortion laws enacted in statehouses across the country. But the goal in Tennessee is to come up with a new approach that would significantly reduce abortions — and could stand up in court.

The “fetal heartbeat bill” prompted this post-session summer study.

It passed in the House this year, but some GOP lawmakers in the Senate felt it needed more discussion since previous laws that ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected have been found unconstitutional by judges across the country.

So Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said his team is figuring out new ways to ban abortions without having to worry about losing in court.

“Can we come up with something to answer the courts on the specific reasons of why they were struck down? I don’t know if we can," Bell told WPLN. "I’m just saying that’s the task we have for us.”

But those court decisions have not prevented other states from trying to ban abortions.

Twelve bans have passed this year in state legislatures across the country, and many of the proponents believe the current conservative U.S. Supreme Court will side with them.

But most of the bans are already heading to litigation.

So Republicans in the state Senate want to do more research. Bell said his team is looking at instances in which the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned precedent on other issues.

They want to see if they can find a way to do the same with Roe v. Wade.

“My goal is — let’s take our best shot at passing an effective heartbeat bill, because all these heartbeat bills that passed in all these states so far have not been effective,” Bell said.

But Francie Hunt, the executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, questioned whether there is a legal way to ban abortions in the earlier stages of pregnancies.

That’s even with a conservative Supreme Court.

“I think that the bills are so laughably unconstitutional that they are going to fail on those states,” Hunt said.

She said that legislators should focus instead on eliminating and reducing unintended pregnancies.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to reopen the discussion on abortions on Aug. 12-13.