Controversial Abortion Bill Passes House Vote

Posted at 10:09 AM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 21:29:40-04

A controversial bill restricting abortions after 20 weeks in Tennessee has headed to Governor Bill Haslam's desk after passing through the House floor on Wednesday morning, following a fiery hour of vigorous debate.

The bill, known as the "Tennessee Infants Protection Act," was approved by lawmakers in the House by a 68 to 18 vote. The vote followed months of debate both inside and outside of committee meetings.

Close to two dozen Planned Parenthood protestors filled the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday to voice opposition to the bill.

"What this legislation does is address a serious concern in Tennessee," said Republican Representative Matthew Hill who sponsored the piece of legislation.

The vote on Wednesday came as a huge victory for pro-life advocates. 

Also known as the "20 week abortion bill," the law, if signed by Governor Haslam, would make it illegal for a woman to get an abortion after 20 weeks if a doctor determines her fetus to be viable. Democrats on the House floor continued to voice their concerns over the bill, but lacking the numbers needed to mount any real opposition, failed to stop the bill from moving forward.

"One of the serious problems with this legislation is we are attempting to codify a finite date on viability," said Democratic Representative John Ray Clemmons.

"This is a ridiculous piece of legislation! What you need to do is punish men who can't keep their pants on and zippers up," his Democratic colleague Sherry Jones added.

Opponents of the bill also called the legislation constitutionally suspect, citing the Tennessee Attorney General's opinion saying limiting abortions after 20 weeks could result in lawsuits. The bill would also not allow exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

"It's time that we do something for these children and prevent them from being ripped form the womb," said Terri Lynn Weaver, a Republican who represents Smith County.

The "Tennessee Infants Right Protection" act has already passed through the state Senate. Governor Haslam's office said Wednesday that he will review the legislation with the State Attorney General before deciding whether he will sign it into law.