Tennessee could be the next state to push for an early ban on abortions, which is likely to be put up for a vote in January 2020. But this time, the bill has as its goal not just a ban on abortion at six weeks when a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected — the goal is to make abortion illegal in the state, and ultimately, to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion throughout the United States in 1973, overruling multiple state laws in effect at the time. Abortion advocates are framing the bill as an attempt to exert “power and control” over women.
This bill is reportedly a “revamp” of the earlier “heartbeat bill,” SB 1236, which passed the House in March but stalled in the Senate. CBS News reports:
On Monday and Tuesday, the state’s judiciary committee will hear testimony from more than 20 witnesses and debate an 11-page amendment to its stalled “fetal heartbeat” bill. If the changes are adopted, the legislation will ban abortion once a woman knows she’s pregnant.
The committee, which has seven Republicans and two Democrats, is expected to accept the changes….
[T]he 11-page amendment was introduced to convert the bill from an effective six-week ban to a near-total abortion ban, providing exceptions only if the procedure would save the mother’s life or avert “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” according to the amendment’s text.
VIDEO: Hear the actual heartbeats of these preborn babies from 5 weeks
Newsweek claims that the amendment also contains “a drastic change to the definition of fetal viability,” and then goes on to inaccurately report the currently accepted age of viability:
The Supreme Court considered viability to be the point at which a fetus can survive on its own outside of the womb, which is usually between 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy.
But Tennessee lawmakers have proposed that viability is when a pregnancy can be detected, either with fetal cardiac activity or with increased levels of the HCG hormone.
The generally accepted time for viability currently sits somewhere between 23-24 weeks gestation, which is actually 22 weeks after fertilization (gestation is counted from the last menstrual period, not from fertilization). According to the Endowment for Human Development, “By 21 to 22 weeks after fertilization, the lungs gain some ability to breathe air. This is considered the age of viability because survival outside the womb becomes possible for some fetuses.”
EHD also notes that by 20 weeks, the preborn child has a functioning corpus callosum, dividing the brain into two separately functioning sides. By 21 weeks, rapid eye movement and dreaming during sleep begins. By 22 weeks, the gastrointestinal tract begins to function like a newborn’s.
According to the Tennesseean, “[S]tate Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon… hopes to amend the proposal to redefine the moment a fetus is considered viable. Instead of the well-established court rulings that defined viability as the time a fetus can survive outside a mother’s womb, Pody wants Tennessee to establish a state law that says viability begins at the moment of conception.”
The new amendment to the bill would redefine “viability” completely, based on several medical and developmental definitions and criteria, such as the fact that “‘viable’ or ‘viability’ and ‘nonviable’ are accepted and published scientific medical terms applicable to the normal development of an unborn child, even in the first trimester,” (emphasis added) and based on the existence of cardiac activity as well as the fact that “within the framework of the pregnancy of an unborn child, it is established and accepted medical science that the viability of the fetus, unborn child, human individual, or person is determined during the first six weeks of gestation through a consistent increase of the pregnancy-specific hormone HCG.”
Pro-abortion group NARAL came out against the bill on Twitter today, and Live Action president Lila Rose reacted to the news, praising Tennessee for its legislation:
Amazing news. So proud of Alabama, and now Tennessee, moving to protect the basic right to live of every child. https://t.co/BBDGYReVf6
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 12, 2019
The full text of the amendment to SB 1236 can be found here.
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