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Tennessee Gov. Lee announces legislation banning abortions if heartbeat is detected

The bill would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected. Lee was surrounded by lawmakers Thursday for the announcement.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proposed what he calls "comprehensive pro-life legislation" Thursday morning.

It would build upon successes in other states while also incorporating innovative approaches to enhance existing law, he said. It would include provisions such as:

  • Prohibiting an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists
  • Requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion
  • Prohibiting an abortion where the physician is aware that the decision to seek an abortion is motivated by the race, sex or health or disability diagnosis of the unborn child.

A release from the governor's office said the new law would also include a “ladder” provision. It would be modeled after Missouri law, which has a ladder of less-restrictive time limits at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder.

Gov. Lee said he believed the legislation would put Tennessee at the forefront of protecting life. 

"No one is more vulnerable than the unborn," Lee said.

Lee was surrounded by lawmakers Thursday for the announcement.

Similar bills have passed in other states, but have ultimately failed in Tennessee.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) and Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville) weighed in on Gov. Lee's announcement Thursday. 

"We're talking about the rights of women. If you believe that women are equal, women have to have agency over their own bodies, and if the government can tell women what to do with their bodies -- that's not equality," Johnson said. 

"I think it should be a state issue. I don't think it's an issue in my district. I look forward to seeing the details of the bill," Daniel said. 

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