Tennessee Senate passes bill requiring fetal development video in public schools News
© WikiMedia (Brian Stansberry
Tennessee Senate passes bill requiring fetal development video in public schools

The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Thursday that would require public schools to show a fetal development video comparable to one produced by an anti-abortion group to its students.

SB 2767 will require public schools’ family life curriculum to include a three-minute “high-quality, computer-generated animation or high-definition ultrasound” that shows the development of vital organs in early fetal development. The bill directly cites “Meet Baby Olivia,” a video produced by anti-abortion group Live Action, as an example.

The bill has received strong criticism from Tennessee Democrats and medical organizations. State Senator Heidi Campbell called the Meet Baby Olivia video “offensively childish,” claiming the video diminished the complex nature of reproductive health and was “insulting” to both women and the medical profession. She stated, “[t]o turn women’s personal health challenges into propaganda videos to indoctrinate children is offensive.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also criticized the video, stating that it provides misleading anti-abortion information that is “designed to manipulate the emotions of viewers.”

Republican State Senator Janice Bowling, who sponsored the bill, claimed the video is “medically correct.” She stated, “[i]t shows the moment when the sperm unites with the egg, and that is the beginning of life.” CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi Ashley Coffield disagreed, however, stating the video was not medically accurate and “has not been endorsed by any leading unbiased medical organization.”

The Tennessee Senate rejected various amendments proposed by the state’s Democrats, including an amendment to require parental consent before students could watch the video and an amendment that would require a disclaimer that the video showed “scientifically inaccurate information and political propaganda.” Democratic State Senator Charlane Oliver criticized Republicans for requiring the video to be shown without parental consent, arguing the bill is inconsistent with Republicans claiming to prioritize a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s education. She stated, “[parental choice] seems to be only convenient when it fits a certain political ideology.”

Since the US Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022, various states have implemented anti-abortion legislation. Similar proposals that also reference the Meet Baby Olivia video have been introduced in Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, and Iowa. If Governor Bill Lee signs the Tennessee bill, it will be the first of these proposals to turn into law.

Lee celebrated the Dobbs decision in 2022, claiming it marked the start of a “hopeful, new chapter for our country.” He then implemented a total ban on abortion and later provided narrow exceptions in cases of certain medical emergencies. The ban is currently being challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which claims the exceptions are too vague and that the ban is unconstitutional under the Tennessee Constitution.