Tennessee lawmakers exploring abortion ban despite court challenge to similar Alabama law

Tennessee lawmakers are studying legislation that would impose a near-total ban on abortion in spite of a...

Posted: Aug 14, 2019 7:09 AM

Tennessee lawmakers are studying legislation that would impose a near-total ban on abortion in spite of a similar Alabama bill already facing a challenge in federal court.

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings Monday and Tuesday on a bill that would ban abortions "when a viable pregnancy is presumed to exist or has been confirmed," and punish non-compliant providers with up to 15 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The Senate bill would amend and expand upon a stalled House bill that seeks to ban abortion at the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure goes further by defining viability based on either a fetal heartbeat or the presence of HCG, a pregnancy hormone that can be detected via blood test as early as 10 days from conception.

Many women do not know that they are pregnant by either point. The widely accepted court standard for viability is 24 weeks.

Alabama passed a similar law in May banning nearly all abortions that has already been challenged in court.

Backers of the legislation in Tennessee, which is in a different federal circuit than Alabama, said that they are looking ahead to a potential Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade.

"To be honest, if the 11th circuit rules one way and the 6th circuit rules another way, that's exactly how you get to the Supreme Court," said David Fowler, a former Tennessee state senator who's now the president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

Fowler, who testified during Monday's committee hearing, helped write the legislation with the bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Mark Pody.

Like Alabama's ban, the Tennessee Senate bill would make exceptions to protect the life of the mother, but not for instances of rape or incest.

"Just because there was a horrible thing done to somebody, doesn't mean some else should lose their life because of that act," Pody told CNN in an interview.

"I still have not heard a valid argument in terms of why one bad act should kill somebody else," Pody added.

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee cannot vote on the measure during this summer session. But Pody anticipates that the measure will pass out of committee and in a full vote during the chamber's regular session in January -- and hold up in court, despite the pending challenge in Alabama.

"Each circuit will look at it a different way, we just need to see how each circuit addresses it," he said. "Just because they address it a certain way in (Alabama's) circuit doesn't mean they'll address it the same way in the 6th circuit."

But Democratic State Sen. Katrina Robinson said Monday that "there have been a lot of questions to the constitutionality of the bill" at all stages.

"Our view is that it will not stand up in the Supreme Court, and we already expended quite a few funds on unconstitutional legislation that passed in the past," she said, citing the challenge against the state's 48-hour abortion waiting period statute from 2015.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, has not taken a position on the amended Senate bill.

"The governor has said that he is in support of legislation that would reduce the number of abortions and protect life, and he also believes that any legislation needs to be thoughtful and strategic so that it actually accomplishes the goals it sets out to do," Chris Walker, a spokesman for Lee, told CNN in a statement. "With that in mind, he wants to carefully study the various proposals and ideas and has not endorsed or backed any specific piece of legislation."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
Lowndes6261144
Lamar610284
Lafayette6026117
Washington5279132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4440103
Pearl River4418139
Warren4277118
Marshall4267100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
Wayne261341
Leake260973
Grenada254882
Covington254380
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237647
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
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