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Tenn. Sen. Proposes Mandatory Counseling Measure To Replace Previously Invalidated Law

January 13, 2015 — A Tennessee state senator has proposed a measure (SB 13) that would require abortion providers to provide abortion patients with certain information before the procedure, the Rutherford County Daily News Journal reports.

The state Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 2000. However, a state constitutional amendment (Amendment 1) that was approved in a ballot initiative last year could make it easier for certain abortion restrictions to pass legal muster in the state, according to the Daily News Journal (Boucher, Rutherford County Daily News Journal, 1/8).

Background

Amendment 1 specifies that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution. The ballot effort was seen as a response from abortion-rights opponents to the 2000 state Supreme Court ruling, which found that "a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy is a vital part of the right to privacy" under Tennessee's state constitution and that any abortion restrictions should be subject to a "strict scrutiny" legal standard. The ruling had made it more difficult for state lawmakers to implement certain antiabortion-rights measures that are in place in other conservative states (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/7/14).

Bill Details

Under state Sen. Mae Beavers' (R) proposed bill, abortion providers would have to meet several new requirements before performing the procedure. Specifically, a physician would have to confirm to the woman that she is pregnant, tell her the length of gestation, state that a "considerable number" of abortions are "major surgical procedures," explain what services are available if she continues the pregnancy, and describe risks and benefits of abortion.

If the woman is more than 24 weeks pregnant, the physician must tell her that the fetus could be "capable of surviving outside of the womb." The woman seeking the abortion would have to sign a form to confirm that the provider has shared the required information.

Bill's Prospects

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) expect that Beavers' bill, as well as a mandatory delay bill and stricter clinic inspection requirements, will gain traction this session, according to the Daily News Journal.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has predicted multiple restrictions will be enacted, although he has cautioned against measures that "courts in other places have said you can't do" (Rutherford County Daily News Journal, 1/8).