On February 14, 2023, HB883 passed in the Population Health Subcommittee. In the words of Constitutional expert Paul Linton, this legislation “entirely rewrites state law (Human Life Protection Act "HLPA") and in doing so, creates an abortion law that would be, in practice, if not in principle, unenforceable.”
Referred to as the "Life of the Mother, Post Dobbs Cleanup Act,” the bill is being presented as a clarification that Tennessee law has an exception for the life of the mother, including treatment for ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage. While well-intentioned, in reality this bill, if enacted, would offer cover for those who abort children in our state and would delete large sections of pro-life measures in Tennessee code.
If HB883 simply clarified the law, Tennessee Right to Life would NOT oppose it.
HB883 takes a 2-page law (HLPA) and turns it into a 9-page exception. It seeks to take Tennessee from a state that no longer allows unborn children to be aborted (with a provision for the life of the mother) to a state where our protections for unborn children are “unenforceable.”
This new legislation that is being billed as a simple “cleanup” would, among other things allow:
- Large portions of pro-life laws currently on the books to be removed.
- Physicians to abort unborn children if they believe there is a “lethal fetal anomaly” or if they think a baby has a condition that is “incompatible with life.” The definitions of these circumstances are broad and left up to the discretion of the physician alone.
- Physicians who are accused of an illegal abortion to go before a state medical board to pre-determine whether or not the law has been violated.
- Physicians to end the life of a baby if they claim it is to PREVENT or treat a medical emergency. So a baby could be aborted to prevent a condition that may never happen. In Linton’s opinion, “that wording alone would effectively nullify the prohibition of abortion in Tennessee.”
Tragically, some pro-life legislators are currently supporting this bill because they have been told that it will only clarify for those times when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. However, the truth is that if passed, this language would create large loopholes for those who abort children in our state.
Although some claim that this legislation is pro-life, it has the support of long-time Democratic Representative John Ray Clemmons who has never voted for a pro-life bill. Those in the subcommittee hearing in support of this bill held up signs that said, "Abortion is Healthcare" and cheered when the bill passed.
Tennessee Right to Life has worked for nearly 50 years to pass protections for unborn children and their mothers. Despite this strong track record, previously avowed pro-life lawmakers are dismissing TRL's concerns and supporting this bill.
Tennessee’s current law under the Human Life Protection Act is saving an estimated 900 children each month in our state. The law is working as intended. If legislators want to clarify language of the bill, TRL will not oppose that but this legislation goes far beyond clarifications.
Pro-life Representative Bryan Terry was the only member to speak out against the bill and attempt to address the problems. He was the only no vote.
Those recorded as voting in favor of HB883:
Representative Esther Helton-Haynes (R-East Ridge)
Representative Iris Rudder (R-Winchester)
Representative Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville)
Representative Ron Travis (R-Dayton)
Representative Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield)
Representative Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville), Chair of the committee
Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)
Representative Caleb Hemmer (D-Nashville)
Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville)
The bill moves to the full Health Committee on Wednesday, February 22 at 3:30 p.m. (CST). Please contact the members of the committee and ask that they protect Tennessee's unborn children and pro-life laws and vote NO on HB883.
Pro-abortion activists were in full attendance at the subcommittee meeting. Pro-life advocates are encouraged to attend the full committee meeting on February 22.