Tennessee legislature passes bill banning the killing of preborn children after detectable heartbeat

heartbeat abortion bill, pro-life

Shortly after midnight Friday morning, senators in Tennessee passed a bill banning abortions after a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.

House Bill 2263, which passed the Senate with a 23-5 vote, also bans abortion due to the child’s sex or race, or due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The bill’s only listed exception is to save the life of the mother (an exception which is not actually medically necessary – read more here). There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Abortion providers who violate the law or who fail to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion face felony charges. Also within the bill is the requirement that abortion facilities must post signs and inform patients that chemical abortions (the abortion pill) may be reversible. Violators of that mandate would face a $10,000 fine.

The last minute-measure came as a surprise to many, after earlier indications from the Senate that the House legislation was not a priority due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The ACLU responded almost immediately with a promise to challenge the law in court.

According to the Tennessean, this heartbeat bill differs from others that have been challenged in the courts because it includes additional abortion restrictions. If the courts strike down the heartbeat ban (note: the heartbeat can usually be detected at five to six weeks gestation), this measure automatically goes on to enact abortion bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation.


“It does that in a way that we believe is legally defensible,” said Rep. William Lamberth. “Every time we have passed a measure that was in favor of a life in the womb, it has been challenged in the courts… This bill is [o]n such solid legal footing. We feel good about the fact that it could save millions of lives. And those lives are their most vulnerable because they are still in their mother’s womb.”

Governor Bill Lee, who is expected to sign the new law, tweeted his support Friday morning. “One of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn,” he said.

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