Tennessee bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected
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Tennessee bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill on Friday that will ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Under HB2263/SB2196, it will be a class C felony to perform, induce, or attempt to perform or induce an abortion upon a pregnant woman whose unborn child has a fetal heartbeat. A heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Prior to the time when the unborn child has a fetal heartbeat, a woman will still be required to get an obstetric ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.

It will also be a class C felony to perform an abortion upon a pregnant woman if the woman is seeking an abortion because of the unborn child’s sex or race, or because a prenatal test or screening indicated that the unborn child either had Down syndrome or had the potential for Down syndrome.

There is an exception for medical emergencies. Under the bill, it will be considered an affirmative defense if, in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment, a medical emergency prevented compliance with the provision. The physician still must have complied with certain conditions, unless the medical emergency also prevented compliance.

A physician who is criminally charged under this amendment will be required to report the charge to the board of medical examiners within seven days of learning about the charge. The report must include, if possible, the jurisdiction where the charge is pending and a copy of the charging documents. A district attorney general must also notify the board of medical examiners when a physician is charged.

The bill passed the Tennessee Senate by a vote of 23-5 and the Tennessee House by a vote of 70-20. It now expected to be signed into law by Governor Bill Lee, who has been very supportive of the bill.