NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposed a new fetal heartbeat bill on Thursday that would ban abortions from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The governor made the announcement Thursday morning surrounded by dozens of lawmakers. Some of the local lawmakers backing Governor Lee included Representatives John Crawford of Sullivan County and Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough, as well as Senator Jon Lundberg of Bristol.
“I believe that we have a special responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our community and no one is more vulnerable than the unborn,” said Lee.
Governor Lee said the bill incorporates elements from bills passed in other states as well as building upon existing Tennessee laws.
If passed, the bill would also require an ultrasound before an abortion.
Governor Lee said the bill also prohibits physicians from performing an abortion if it is motivated by sex, race or a diagnosed disability.
“My passion for developing this legislation stems from my commitment to defending the intrinsic dignity of all people,” Governor Lee said. “That is why we also included a provision prohibiting an abortion where the physician is aware that the action is motivated by sex, race or a health or disability diagnosis of the child.”
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Local lawmakers also spoke at the Governor Lee’s presentation of the bill.
State Representative Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough thanked Governor Lee for his commitment to the unborn.
“It is our generation’s turn, whether it is this session or the next, our generation will abolish abortion in Tennessee,” Representative Van Huss said.
Van Huss also said the bill is expected to ban abortions after 8 weeks.
“It would abolish roughly 44 percent of all abortions in Tennessee,” he said. “Roughly 44 percent are performed over the 8 week mark, so that is huge. I think that is somewhere over 4,000 babies a year that this would save.”
Tennessee State Senator Jon Lundberg of Bristol also commended Governor Lee for his faith and leadership.
“We have one primary responsibility, and that’s the safety and security and health of Tennesseans,” Senator Lundberg said. “Make no mistake, these unborn children are Tennesseans.”
Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood feel the governor has missed the mark in how the state can truly support families.
“An outright ban on abortion is dishonoring our abilities to make decisions for our own families,” said Francie Hunt with Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood. “We firmly believe that any decision regarding a person’s pregnancy needs to be left up to that woman, that person, her family, faith and doctor.”
Those supporting abortion alternatives think differently.
“We know heartbeats are sometimes detected 17 to 21 days after conception and most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point,” said Joe Kerns with Abortion Alternatives & Crisis Pregnancy Center in Bristol, Virginia, “so that would almost eliminate abortions in our state.”
The bill has not yet been submitted.
House Leader William Lamberth, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson will be the sponsors of the bill.