Tennessee has become the seventh state to pass a law that prohibits abortions as early as six weeks after conception. According to ABC News, The bill does not make exceptions for rape or incest, however, the law will allow a woman to abort a pregnancy after six weeks if her life is in danger.
ABC reports the decision came behind closed doors in a last-minute decision Thursday night. The decision was made by a Republican majority, who are in power in both the Senate and House of Representatives in Tennessee. The state Governor, Bill Lee, is also a Republican.
The bill passed Senate 23-5 according to USA Today.
Other Restrictions in the Bill Include a Ban on Abortions in Cases of Down Syndrome
A fetal heartbeat can be heard at six weeks, which is why bills floated by lawmakers for a 6-week ban on abortion is often referred to as a fetal heartbeat bill. Advocates of fetal heartbeat bills say it’s wrong to abort a fetus once the heartbeat is detectable.
Critics of the 6-week abortion bans say that measure is a problem because often times a woman or teen may not realize she is pregnant until she is further along, so she never has an opportunity to make a choice.
USA Today reports the new law also bans abortions sought due to the child’s sex or race, or if a woman is seeking an abortion because her fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome, however, those things are not generally known before six weeks gestation.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the reason those restrictions are included has to do with “an attempt to ensure that abortion access is taken away even if the courts strike down the 6-week ban portion of the bill.”
The legislation also requires that ultrasound photos be shown to women who are having abortions and clinics where procedures are performed must post signs that tell patients it is impossible to reverse medical abortions — or those induced by pharmaceutical drugs.
The ACLU & Planned Parenthood Have Already Vowed to Fight the Bill in Court
The ACLU released a statement that they will fight the decision, calling it “one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country.” They said, “This bill effectively outlaws abortion in the state of Tennessee.”
Planned Parenthood will join the lawsuit. Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood called it “a deeply upsetting day” but promised, “the fight is not over.”
With news of the sudden late-night vote, Tennessee Senator Sara Kyle tweeted, “In the middle of the night our Republican super majority decided that women and their doctors can’t make decisions for their own bodies. They passed an unconstitutional, extreme bill on abortion and I along with my other Dem colleagues voted NO!”
Other states where there is a 6-week abortion ban are Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota and Ohio, according to the Guttmacher Institute, yet those laws are not in effect due to ongoing litigation.
The Guttmacher Institute reported that Tennessee had 12 abortion facilities in the state in 2017, but 96% of Tennessee counties had no abortion clinics. Of all the abortions in the U.S that year, approximately 862,320, only 1.4% or 12,140 took place in Tennessee.