Gov. Bill Lee (R) of Tennessee said Friday he will sign into law a bill that bans abortions at the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about the sixth week of pregnancy.
Tennessee lawmakers passed the legislation, which Lee backed, after midnight Thursday evening.
In a tweet, Lee said, “We have passed the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history,” and expressed gratitude to members of his administration and lawmakers for passing the heartbeat legislation.
“One of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn,” the governor added:
We have passed the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history and I am grateful to @ltgovmcnally, @CSexton25, @SenJohnson, @WilliamLamberth and members of our General Assembly for making the heartbeat bill law.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) June 19, 2020
Lee said the measure was “enhanced” since the proposed legislation of last year, Fox17 reported, in that he believes it is more likely to succeed in the courts.
The bill resembles that of Missouri with “sequential abortion prohibitions at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder.”
In addition to banning abortions at the time a heartbeat can be detected, the bill also requires an ultrasound prior to abortions and bans abortions “motivated by sex, race or disability diagnosis of the unborn child.”
According to NewsChannel5, after the bill passed the State Senate, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers removed three Planned Parenthood supporters from the gallery.
Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood chanted, “They don’t care if women die”:
Francie Hunt, executive director of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood and two other advocates were removed from the Senate Gallery by THP.
Hunt was chanting, “they don’t care if women die.” @NC5 pic.twitter.com/DWQiQjMX30
— Kelsey Gibbs (@KelseyGibbsNC5) June 19, 2020
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) June 19, 2020
BREAKING: With our partners, we just sued to stop Tennessee's extreme abortion ban law.
Lawmakers can pass unconstitutional laws like this under cover of night, but they'll have to face us in court in the light of day.
— ACLU of Tennessee (@aclutn) June 19, 2020
“It is always shameful — not to mention blatantly unconstitutional — when politicians attempt to take away a pregnant person’s right to make the decision that is best for themselves and their family,” said ACLU’s Anjali Dalal, adding the narrative that right to abortion is connected to the coronavirus pandemic and the current anti-police riots. She continued:
But to pass an abortion ban, which disproportionately harms Black and Brown people, when these communities are already suffering under the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and police violence, just proves that these politicians are more interested in furthering an anti-abortion agenda than in serving their constituents.
It is a DISGRACE that in the face of a true public health crisis, Tennessee politicians wasted their time with this last-minute move to attack abortion access before closing up shop this session.
But we won’t let them. https://t.co/baxysKc5om
— Alexis McGill Johnson (@alexismcgill) June 19, 2020
Similarly, Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting CEO, tweeted:
It is a DISGRACE that in the face of a true public health crisis, Tennessee politicians wasted their time with this last-minute move to attack abortion access before closing up shop this session. But we won’t let them.
Planned Parenthood has been the subject of considerable controversy during the pandemic since the organization insisted abortion is an “essential” procedure and kept its clinics open for abortions, even when scarce personal protective equipment was needed for healthcare workers caring for patients suffering from the COVID-19 infection.