Tennessee ‘heartbeat’ bill purpose clear, details coming later

State-Capitol

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – While some language is clear, there’s a lot still to be written by Governor Bill Lee and his Republican colleagues over this year’s version of what has become known as “heartbeat” bill.

“We are taking a monumental step forward in celebrating, cherishing and defending life,” Lee said Thursday morning before a large group of the Tennessee Capitol’s Republican supermajority.

It will also be this year’s battle over the life of the unborn.

Some of the Republican lawmakers who were at the Capitol Hill ceremony unveiling the outline of the bill have high hopes for it.

“Whether its this session or the next, our generation will abolish abortion in Tennessee,” said East Tennessee Rep. Micah Van Huss.

Last year’s version of the bill stalled was withdrawn in the Senate after Lt. Governor Randy McNally raised concerns about the state’s cost of legally fighting for the bill when it was likely taken to court.

This year’s version of the “heartbeat” bill will be part of Governor Bill Lee’s legislative agenda.

“My bill would prohibit an abortion of a fetal heartbeat upon detection of a fetal heartbeat,” said the governor.

It can’t be described more simply. But there will be complicated and perhaps often changed language written in the bill to withstand what will likely be lengthy legal challenges potentially costly to the state.

Lt. Governor McNally has mostly dropped his concerns about the legal issues.

“I think it will be challenged on its constitutionality,” the Lt. Governor later told reporters. “But I think it will survive.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Mike Bell outlined what he sees as key provisions.

“We may not know the exact language, but we know it will have a heartbeat provision, we know its know it’s going to have ultrasound provision, we know it’s going to have a eugenics provision,” Sen. Bell told reporters.

The eugenics provision lawmakers said refers to a ban against abortion for things like race or disabilities.

The bill is also expected to have an abortion ban like eight weeks or ten weeks or more if the “heartbeat” part of the bill is struck down by the courts.

Legislative Democrats said the bill will tear Tennesseans apart.

“Bill Lee talks about bringing people together, but his very first legislative initiative of this session is to embark on an extreme divisive political agenda,” said Senate Democrat leader Jeff Yarbro.

Right now, lawmakers say there is no provision in the bill yet to allow an abortion if the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy or she became pregnant by rape or incest.

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