Republicans in the Tennessee legislature have renewed their efforts to ban abortions in the state, and this time Gov. Bill Lee is behind it.
The proposal, which is in early stages, also has multiple provisions designed to make it stand up in court.
The anti-abortion measure, announced Thursday in a room full of reporters and Republican legislators, is Lee’s first legislative initiative this year.
“I believe that we have a special responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Lee said. “No one is more vulnerable than the unborn.”
The bill would ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity has been detected — this happens about six weeks in the pregnancy.
But what makes it different is the backup provisions it will have.
The proposal creates a ladder effect, meaning that if a court finds the new legislation unconstitutional, then abortions would be banned after week 8 of the pregnancy. If that’s struck down, then the procedure would be prohibited after week 10. It’s expected to go all the way until week 12.
The new measure would also prohibit abortions if the mother uses gender, disability or race as a motivation to undergo the procedure.
“This bill is our next step in our long, hard-fought efforts to protect life and restore the full right to life to the unborn, which is what they should have,” said Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet.
But there’s no formal language for the legislation yet and details, such as if it will include an exception for rape, are not clear.
Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, told reporters the lack of details means the bill is just political, especially during an election year.
“I find it disturbing that we want to place more effort on getting a litigation strategy or a political strategy around abortion than to solve the real issues that we have,” Robinson said. “I find it very disturbing that this is our first run of political agenda this session.”
Robinson predicts the legislation will ultimately be considered unconstitutional.