The Pen

Tennessee Senate Says No to Fetal Heartbeat Bill: House Republicans “Resurrect It”

Lt. Gov Randy McNally (Photo credit: Office of Lt. Gov. Randy McNally)

This story was updated Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at 4:15 p.m. with more information.

[Andy Sher | Times Free Press] NASHVILLE — Tennessee House Republicans have resurrected an anti-abortion “trigger” bill, one day after a Senate GOP-led panel on Tuesday shipped the lower chamber’s preferred approach — a “fetal heartbeat” bill — off to a summer committee for study.

House Health Committee members on Wednesday voted 12-4 to bring the bill, officially known as the Human Life Protection Act, before the full committee. It is set to be considered next week.

The bill, supported by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, among others, would only be “triggered” to ban most abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

It failed last month in the House Public Health Subcommittee as several Republicans, including the sponsors of the House’s previously passed fetal heartbeat bill, joined with Democrats, who opposed both bills, and voted no.

The heartbeat bill sought to follow the lead of a number of states, including Georgia, by banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks. Critics say most women don’t realize they’re pregnant at that point. It is an effort to force the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark 1973 Roe decision, which made abortion legal in all 50 states.

The competing bills have split Tennessee’s anti-abortion rights community and the GOP legislative majority all during this year’s session. But at least for now, enough Republicans appear to be on the same page to proceed with the trigger bill.

Rep. Ron Gant, R-Rossville, sponsor of the trigger bill, told Health Committee members that “it’s an honor to be before you today in order on behalf of the unborn. I think all of us as Republicans ran on a pro-life platform. As Republicans, that’s what we stand for.”

House Democrats on the panel voiced reservations but the bill easily passed. Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, and Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, who had supported the fetal heartbeat bill, both voted yes.

A day earlier, Senate Judiciary Committee members voted 5-3 to ship the heartbeat bill off to summer study.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that although the heartbeat bill was brought “with the best of intentions to be successful in the fight to protect the unborn, strong conviction is not enough.

“We must also have the proper legal and constitutional strategy,” Bell said, The Tennessean reported. “I can assure you the left will use every legal means at their disposal to ensure abortion remains legal, unrestricted and readily available. We must do likewise to prevent it.”

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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Andy Sher and originally published at the Times Free Press. Title changed by P&P.]