Tennessee lawmakers discuss bill that could make abortion illegal

Posted at 9:15 AM, Aug 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-12 20:11:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee lawmakers are meeting to discuss a bill that could make abortions illegal in Tennessee or ban them when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The Senate Judiciary committee is meeting Monday for its summer study on the "fetal heartbeat bill." The committee room was so packed, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers had to move some people into two overflow rooms.

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Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly tried to pass legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure cleared the House but stalled in the Senate after leaders said the bill raised too many legal concerns.

If the changes are adopted, the legislation would ban abortion once a woman knows she's pregnant -- only if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

"The pro-life people all agreed that they want to see restrictions on abortion, but they started disagreeing on how to do it," state Senator Kerry Roberts (R—Springfield) said in a telephone interview with CBS News.

Roberts told CBS News the intention of the amended bill isn't to immediately cut off access to the procedure but to provide a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and other Supreme Court precedents.

This year, six states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio -- passed so-called "heartbeat" bills. Missouri passed an eight-week ban, and Alabama went even further by passing a near-total abortion ban.

Tennessee nearly joined those conservative states with House Bill 77, a "fetal heartbeat" bill that doesn't provide exceptions for victims of rape or incest, CBS News says.