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Tenn. Lawmaker Withdraws Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Tenn. Lawmaker Withdraws Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

April 1, 2015 — A Tennessee bill (HB 2) that would require a women seeking an abortion to receive a mandatory ultrasound and have the images displayed to her by the provider has been withdrawn for the year, the AP/Lexington Herald-Leader reports (AP/Lexington Herald Leader, 3/31).

Bill Background

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Rick Womick (R), would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound 72 to 24 hours before an abortion. In addition, it would mandate that doctors show the ultrasound image to the woman and describe it to her if she chooses not to look. It also would require technicians to make the fetal heartbeat audible. Womick introduced the measure after Tennessee residents last November approved a ballot initiative (Amendment 1) specifying that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.

Earlier this year, Womick said he planned to alter the ultrasound bill in response to a legal analysis by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery (R). The analysis said new abortion laws could not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions, based on the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/18).

Withdrawal Details

The Tennessee House Health Subcommittee on Tuesday was prepared to send the bill to study committee. However, the panel agreed at Womick's request to reschedule the bill for the subcommittee's first meeting in 2016, the AP/Herald-Leader reports.

According to the AP/Herald-Leader, several committee members had expressed concern that the mandatory delay in the bill could conflict with another measure that aims to implement a 48-hour mandatory delay before abortions (AP/Lexington Herald-Leader, 3/31).

Opinion: Lawmakers 'Not Going To Overturn Roe'

"[T]he General Assembly is trying to thread a few needles in its efforts to increase regulation of abortion in Tennessee," but state lawmakers "are not going to overturn Roe v. Wade," a Murfreesboro Daily News Journal editorial states.

According to the editorial, state lawmakers have proposed several antiabortion-rights measures in the aftermath of Amendment 1, including Womick's bill, a 48-hour mandatory delay bill, a biased counseling measure (SB 13) and a "[r]equirement [SB 50] that all clinics providing 50 or more abortions per year be certified as ambulatory surgical centers."

However, the editorial notes that Slatery's analysis has provided state lawmakers with "appropriate warning ... that whatever they approve will need to pass federal court review." The editorial urges state lawmakers to "spend as much time on improving a variety of services to mothers and their children as trying to buck federal law" (Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, 3/31).