State lawmakers are slated to hold hearings next week on legislation that would ban abortions at six weeks in Tennessee.
Last spring, the Tennessee General Assembly came close to passing similar legislation — the Heartbeat Bill, which would have blocked abortions after a heartbeat is detected — but it stalled in the Senate.
Now, Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), one of the co-sponsors of last year’s bill is pushing to bring back the Heartbeat Bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a two-day hearing on Monday and Tuesday of next week to discuss the legislation.
Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi (PPTNM), said at a Thursday press conference that the six-week ban is “unpopular, dangerous for Tennessee women, and it’s unconstitutional.” Coffield said PPTNM is urging the Senate committee to drop the legislation, as abortion is a “critical component of women’s reproductive health care.”
“A six-week abortion ban goes too far, inserting government in personal private lives,” Coffield said. “The bill is intended to ban all abortion in our state. It’s important that abortion remain a safe and legal option for women to consider when and if she needs it.”
Banning abortions threatens the “autonomy and individual freedom of people in Tennessee,” Coffield added.
“The truth is, banning abortion does not eliminate abortion,” Coffield said. “It just makes it less safe, and it puts pregnant women and their families at risk.”
She also noted that in other states that have passed six-week bans, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, North Dakota, and Ohio, the court has “easily blocked these bans,” on the basis that it is unconstitutional for states to prohibit a woman from choosing abortion before viability.
As set by Roe v. Wade, viability occurs in the 24th week of pregnancy.
“If passed in Tennessee, the six-week abortion ban will be challenged in court,” Coffield said. “Just like every other state that’s passed similar laws, we would be setting Tennessee up for an expensive lawsuit that wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.”
President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), David Fowler, helped draft the new version of the bill to be discussed next week.
On this week’s episode of the FACT Report, a one-minute commentary featured on conservative radio stations in the state, Fowler said under the precedent of Roe v. Wade the heartbeat bill is “clearly” unconstitutional. But, he said “Roe’s constitutional reasoning has been sharply criticized from the beginning by liberal and conservative lawyers.”
“Surprisingly, in 46 years, no state has passed a bill that directly attacks Roe’s foundations,” Fowler said. “For 46 years, the Court has not been forced to re-examine Roe’s reasoning.
"So, the real question these senators must answer is whether it’s time to stop cowering before the U.S. Supreme Court by attacking Roe in roundabout ways and pass a bill that forces the issue," Fowler continued. "Roe seems like a giant to overcome, but God has used His people to slay giants before. It’s time we take on the giant.”
Coffield said PPTNM is urging Tennesseans to come to the hearing in Nashville next week to “make their voices heard.”
"These hearings are the most important days of action this whole summer,” a post on PPTNM’s Facebook page reads. “It is imperative that we show our elected officials that Tennesseans do not support a ban on abortion. With your presence, we will make our voices heard.”
PPTNM is offering free travel to Nashville from Memphis by bus on Monday. Contact Tory at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. For those who want to spend the night, the group is also assisting with lodging. Contact Julie at email@example.com for more information.
After the hearing on Tuesday, Coffield said there will be a “people’s hearing” to give the public a chance to voice their opinions. She said speakers will include physicians, attorneys, and women who’ve had abortions.
“It’ll really be centered around the experience of women who have had abortions,” Coffield said. “Those people will not be allowed to speak during the hearings. So those are the people we need to hear from.”
Read the full amended version of the legislation below.