Two days in August could say a lot about any future for a so-called “heartbeat” bill in Tennessee.
After passing the House, the measure faced lingering questions about its constitutionality from a skeptical Senate, so it was placed in what’s called a summer study session.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee designated August 12-13 as a summer study meeting to look at what Tennessee might consider for its “heartbeat” bill.
Bills often don’t move beyond there, but Senate sponsor Mark Pody remains upbeat about his so-called “heartbeat bill” vision.
“This is going to give us a great opportunity for all parties to express their views and do more fact-finding about what we like and don’t like on this particular bill,” Pody said Thursday,
Similar bills passed in other states that ban abortion when a heartbeat is detected face legal concerns, but the senator thinks a Tennessee version could avoid that by not making the fetal heartbeat—which could be detected as early as six weeks in some circumstances—the definition of when to stop abortions from happening.
“What we are using the heartbeat for is…confirmation of life,” Pody added. “We are not saying that is when life starts. What we are saying is that heartbeat is going to confirm that life at this point.”
The senator hopes his Tennessee colleagues will grow comfortable with another definition of when to ban abortion.
“As soon as there is the realistic expectation that somebody is expecting a baby,” Pody said. “The doctors and everybody would have to respect that baby as life—whether they have a heartbeat or not—they have to respect that as life, and we cannot terminate that life.”
Putting that language into a reworked bill for lawmakers to consider is Senator Pody’s hope.
More information about the study session for the “heartbeat” bill and the August summer study session can be found on the Tennessee General Assembly website. The measure is formally called Senate Bill 1236.