Tenn. Bill Allowing Criminal Charges for Harming Embryos Goes to Governor

April 25, 2012 — The Tennessee Senate voted 28-2 on Monday to approve a bill (HB 3517) that would allow prosecutors to add a second murder or assault charge when an embryo is harmed during an attack on a pregnant woman, The Tennessean reports. The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam (R).

Supporters of the bill have denied it is connected to the abortion debate while also labeling it a "pro-life" measure, according to The Tennessean. The legislation was drafted to address what supporters call an oversight in a law that allows charges for harming a fetus. State Sen. Mae Beavers (R) said lawmakers intended for the law, which was approved last year, to also apply to the embryonic stage of pregnancy and didn't realize that the term fetus only applies after six weeks of development.

Opponents of the bill have noted that a woman might not be aware that she is pregnant during the embryonic stage. They argued that the real purpose of the bill is to introduce protections for embryos into state law as a means of benefiting abortion-rights opponents in future debates (Sisk, The Tennessean, 4/24).