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Tenn. House Passes Two Antiabortion-Rights Bills

Tenn. House Passes Two Antiabortion-Rights Bills

April 22, 2015 — The Tennessee House on Tuesday approved two antiabortion-rights bills, with one (SB 1280) heading directly to Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and the other (SB 1222) going back to the state Senate for concurrence, AP/ABC News reports.

According to AP/ABC News, the governor is expected to sign both measures. Dave Smith, a spokesperson for Haslam, said, "Like he does with all legislation that comes to him, he'll review the bills in their final form before taking any action, but I anticipate he'll sign them."

Building Requirements Bill Details

The state House on Tuesday voted 79-17 to pass SB 1280, which would require the seven abortion clinics in Tennessee to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.

Specifically, the bill would require all facilities or physician offices that perform more than 50 abortions annually to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers, according to AP/ABC News (Johnson, AP/ABC News, 4/21).

According to the Tennessean, four providers in the state currently meet ambulatory surgical center standards. The three remaining clinics that are not licensed as ambulatory surgical centers include facilities in Bristol and Knoxville, as well as the Women's Center in Nashville.

A similar measure has been challenged in Texas (Wadhwani/Boucher, Tennessean, 4/21).

Counseling and Delay Bill Details

Also on Tuesday, the state House voted 79-18 to pass SB 1222, which would impose a 48-hour mandatory delay before a woman could obtain an abortion (AP/ABC News, 4/21). The measure also requires that women receive in-person counseling from a physician prior to the procedure (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/16). In the case of a medical emergency, the counseling requirement is waived.

The bill also includes a "spring-back" provision that would reduce the delay to 24 hours if the measure is stayed or struck down by a court. In addition, the state House on Tuesday approved an amendment that would allow the remainder of the bill to stay in effect if any portion of the measure is found invalid, according to the Tennessean.

Meanwhile, conservatives in the state House on Tuesday rejected an amendment that would have permitted women to receive counseling via a non-physician or via phone. They also rejected an amendment that would have added exemptions to the bill's mandatory delay provision in cases of rape or incest (Tennessean, 4/21).

The state Senate has already approved the original bill. However, the new amendment requires the bill to return to the Senate for another vote.


State Rep. Matthew Hill (R) said the mandatory delay and counseling measure aims to "mak[e] all ... facts and information available to the women in order to make a careful and fully informed decision" (AP/ABC News, 4/21).

However, state Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D) said, "The ultimate effect of this [bill would be] putting an obstacle in the path of a woman seeking to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion."

Meanwhile, abortion-rights supporters have said they will study the bills to see if they violate Supreme Court precedent, which holds that abortion regulations cannot impose an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure (Tennessean, 4/21).