Today Tennessee Republicans passed the “Heartbeat Bill”, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – generally around 6 weeks into a pregnancy – by a 67-21 vote, with 7 abstentions.
The bill makes no exceptions for rape or incest, meaning even a teenager impregnated after being raped by her basketball coach would have to carry the baby to term.
Rep. Micah Van Huss, who carried the bill, famously said he “could not find the evil” in that scenario.
The passage of the bill was contentious. Rep. London Lamar stood up and objected, saying as the only woman of child-bearing age she should have more say over what happens to her body than the mostly male TN House.
From Rep. Lamar London:
Rape and incest are inhumane. No woman should have to carry her rapist child. Not only would this cause the woman to seek illegal and unhealthy means to get rid of the child, but you also will physically, mentally and emotionally harm the woman and child.
— State Rep. London Lamar (@LondonLamarTN) March 7, 2019
Rep. Gloria Johnson also stood to talk, and was the only female Rep with an amendment scheduled to be heard, but was ignored, as was her amendment for the bill which would have allowed for exceptions in the cases of rape and incest.
Republicans prevented Rep. Johnson from speaking up for Tennessee’s women. What are they afraid of?
Needless to say, REP. GLORIA JOHNSON WILL NOT BE SILENCED. pic.twitter.com/wJM15pWQFT
— Michael Stewart (@RepMikeStewart) March 7, 2019
Johnson followed all the protocol to have her amendment heard, and it was on the schedule, but Speaker Casada – who has admitted that he has taken the lead on this legislation in the hopes that it will end up in front of the Supreme Court – adjourned, then came back and ignored Johnson’s amendment.
When I got to my desk on the floor this morning, this packet was on my desk and every desk on the floor. Please note “Amendments that will be heard on the calendar today.” My bill is there. They recessed and Speaker refused to hear my amendment. Then refused to allow me to speak. pic.twitter.com/Tvl8zoUZEk
— Gloria Johnson (@VoteGloriaJ) March 7, 2019
These bills are unconstitutional, as even the committee lawyer admitted.
Women were outside in the hallway protesting the bill loudly.
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) March 7, 2019
Here are some other reactions:
State Senator Jeff Yarbro:
This is a bill so obviously unconstitutional that TN Right to Life opposed it. Legislators are bound to uphold the Constitution, and today’s vote wasn’t that.
Rather than spending state $ defending an invalid law, maybe we could focus on improving the lives of citizens. https://t.co/mV3zWQ5eIC
— Jeff Yarbro (@yarbro) March 7, 2019
State Rep. John Ray Clemmons:
Today, my colleague @VoteGloriaJ was prepared to stand tall & speak up for TN women’s access to reproductive #healthcare services. Unfortunately, she and others, including me, were prevented from speaking & asking the sponsor of fetal heartbeat bill questions. pic.twitter.com/XljJEZFxqr
— John Ray Clemmons (@JRClemmons) March 7, 2019
If you believe Speaker Casada silencing Rep. Johnson was wrong, and that women should have a say in what happens to their bodies, holler at him HERE.
Yesterday at a Health Committee hearing Rep. Micah Van Huss (R) once again presented his “Heartbeat Bill” – HB 0077 – and reiterated that the bill, which outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often around 6 weeks, does not provide exceptions for rape and incest.
Critics note that many women don’t know they’re pregnant until after 6 weeks, particularly in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, and that the committee is almost entirely male.
Van Huss made headlines last week with his responses to questions from Rep. Vincent Dixie (D), saying that incest is “either consensual or rape” implying that incest should not be included in the abortion exemption conversation, and that rape was a “sin” of both the father and mother that the “baby” should not pay for.
At today’s hearing Dixie and Van Huss again went toe to toe, and again Van Huss gave an answer that elicited gasps from the audience when Dixie presented a detailed scenario in which a high school basketball player was raped by her coach, impregnated, and forced to carry his baby to term.
Dixie asked Van Huss if he can find the evil in that scenario, to which Van Huss replied:
“I cannot. Because the evil I find is what you left out. I don’t believe it’s right to rip an innocent baby limb from limb.”
Watch the video here:
HB 0077 does not provide exceptions for rape and incest. It forces a woman to carry her rapist’s baby to term, and would make it a Class C felony for a doctor to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The bill passed 15-4 along party lines, with only 3 women voting. It will now be voted on by the legislature.
The bill has been called “constitutionally suspect” by the committee attorney and the attorney general has also questioned its constitutionality, which means costly legal battles are ahead which the taxpayers of Tennessee would be on the hook for.
Time to holler at your reps loud and clear.