House sub kills ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill

On a 5-4 vote, the House Health Subcommittee has put off any consideration of a so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill until next year. The measure would have prohibited an abortion once a fetus heartbeat could be detected, which typically occurs within six weeks of conception.

The bill by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Gray, (HB108) had been deemed “constitutionally suspect” by Attorney General Herbert Slatery in a recent legal opinion. (Previous post HERE.)

Though there was no discussion of the measure Wednesday, there was a week earlier, reports the Johnson City Press.

In a lengthy subcommittee hearing last week before a vote on the bill was postponed, Van Huss said as a Christian, he believed it was his moral obligation to pursue the legislation.

“For me, the answer to abortion is a simple one — God says in the book of Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you,’” the lawmaker said to the panel.

By blocking up to 90 percent of currently legal abortions, Van Huss said the bill had the potential to save thousands of unborn babies each year in the state.

But some at the meeting last week, including the man who managed the 2014 campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment giving lawmakers broader power to regulate and restrict abortion, argued against the bill.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, warned passing Van Huss’ bill could lead to lost ground for the pro-life movement and its supporters in the General Assembly.

“The national pro-abortion attorneys that are coming into our state to argue against those statutes are using as Exhibit A the statutes you’ve already passed,” Harris said. “You bring an unconstitutional ban before them, and it’s only going to hearten their case.”

The panel did approve a less stringent bill sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, (HB1189) that puts new restrictions on abortions before 20 weeks. That came on a voice vote after about 45 minutes of debate,  reports The Tennessean.

Hill said the purpose of his bill was to define viability in state law. Although his bill does not explicitly prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, it calls for testing before an abortion to determine viability if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant.

…The committee heard testimony from two mothers who said they had to get abortions after discovering serious complications with their child that left them no choice but to terminate their pregnancy. Hill thanked the women for their testimony but said neither of their abortions would have been prohibited should his bill become enacted. (Note: WPLN has more specifics, HERE.)

As the committee considered the bill, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, raised several questions about Hill’s bill, while also expressing doubt as to its need… At several points during the discussion, audience members outwardly reacted to the debate, at one point cheering Clemmons and at another point joining in a chorus of “No” after Hill discussed court rulings.

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