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Gov. Lee signs abortion bill that allows treatment terminating 'ectopic or molar pregnancy'

The bill also requires the state Department of Health to report the number of abortion treatments performed in Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE (April 28): Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law that allows abortion treatments under two specific situations: an ectopic pregnancy or a molar pregnancy. Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi said that the law would do little to allow more abortion treatments. It also did not add exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

“Today’s signing changes nothing, and being pregnant in Tennessee is still far deadlier than it should ever be,” said Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. “The debate at the legislature this year over how to save very few lives while appeasing extremists got us nowhere. The only way to restore reproductive freedoms — before things get even worse — are consequences at the ballot box for anti-abortion extremists.”

The Tennessee Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, also released a statement. It is below. 

“The session got off to a rocky start with the introduction of HB883 in the House Population Subcommittee. The original language would have significantly weakened Tennessee’s pro-life law and would have made it basically unenforceable. Pro-life voters and members of the General Assembly made their voices heard before the bill was presented in the full Health Committee, and the bill was basically rewritten with language that was acceptable to the pro-life position and to pro-life Tennesseans. Those pro-life voices made all the difference.”


ORIGINAL: A bill making its way through the Tennessee legislature would allow abortion treatments under two specific situations: an ectopic pregnancy or a molar pregnancy.

HB 0883 was introduced by Representative Esther Helton-Haynes (R - East Ridge). Its Senate version was introduced by Senator Richard Briggs (R - Knoxville).

It passed the house on Monday. Several amendments proposed by Representative Gloria Johnson (D - Knoxville) failed. Those amendments would have added protections for abortion treatments if a pregnancy was the result or rape or incest, and would have made other abortion treatments a Class-A misdemeanor.

It will be discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The amended version of the bill says licensed physicians would not commit a crime if they perform abortion services at a licensed hospital or an ambulatory surgical treatment center, as long as they decide it's necessary to prevent the pregnant person from dying or to prevent major bodily harm. They would also need to perform services that "provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive."

It explicitly says providing abortion services would still be a crime if a physician believes a pregnant person would intentionally hurt themselves should they give birth, or if their mental health would be harmed.

An ectopic pregnancy is a kind of condition where an egg is fertilized outside of the uterus, which could cause life-threatening injuries should it grow. A molar pregnancy is a kind of condition where a placenta does not form correctly, due an incorrect fertilization leading to a noncancerous tumor.

The bill was amended from its original version. The original version would have made the state capitol commission responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a monument to "unborn children" at the state capitol. The amendment does not mention the monument, which state law still requires to be built using the Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children fund.

Critics of the bill said it does not go far enough to protect physicians who provide abortion services and does not provide exemptions in cases of rape or incest.

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