NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee will soon have one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.
Just after midnight Friday morning, state lawmakers passed the fetal heartbeat bill. The law was one that Governor Bill Lee had announced was one of his priorities for this session, saying he believes "every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it.”
One of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) June 19, 2020
The bill bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically at about six weeks into pregnancy.
After the bill was passed, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers removed three Planned Parenthood advocates from the Senate gallery. The organization's Executive Director in Tennessee, Francie Hunt, chanted "They don't care if women die."
Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood and two other advocates were removed from the Senate Gallery by THP.— Kelsey Gibbs (@KelseyGibbsNC5) June 19, 2020
Hunt was chanting, “they don’t care if women die.” @NC5 pic.twitter.com/DWQiQjMX30
"It does that in a way that we believe is legally defensible," said Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland. "Every time we have passed a measure that was in favor of a life in the womb, it has been challenged in the courts... This bill is in such solid legal footing. We feel good about the fact that it could save millions of lives. Andd those lives are their most vulnerable because they are still in their mother's womb."
The passing of the bill shocked Democrats and anti-abortion activists because they had been told for weeks that the Senate would not take up the bill.
"The fetal heartbeat bill, which is one of the most extreme, anti-choice bills passed in the United States, was used as a trade off by the House Republicans to get some budget concessions," said Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Davidson County. "I just don't think serious legislation like that should be used as a budget bargaining chip."
The measure requires mothers to get an ultrasound before an abortion and forbids an abortion when the doctor is aware the decision is motivated by race, sex, health, or disability.
Just after the measure was passed Friday morning, the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement:
"Lack of access to abortion care particularly harms those struggling financially and those who already face significant barriers to health care, including people of color, people with limited incomes, rural people, and young people. Politicians should not be deciding what is best for women and certainly not making reproductive health care decisions for them. As promised, we will see them in court.”
Governor Lee is expected to sign the bill into law soon.