Image: Bill Sponsor Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes (R-East Ridge-District 30) presents HB0883 and amendments to the House Health Committee on March 15th, 2023 Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
Yesterday, before The House Health Committee a bill that was initially designed to soften the current ban on abortion that has existed since the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe Vs Wade this past May, was passed but not without some significant substantive changes.
Filed as a deceptive caption bill, HB0883 has the almost completely unrelated summary of: “As introduced, requires the state capitol commission to be responsible through funds appropriated to the commission, after funds from the construction and placement have been exhausted, for the upkeep and maintenance of a monument on the capitol campus that is in memory of the victims of abortion.”
The original legislation (from an amendment to HB0883 that made the bill) that passed through the subcommittee, removed the language in the bill that required the provider would have to prove the necessity of their decision to provide an abortion through the use of an affirmative defense in a criminal trial. Additionally, it only required that a physician determine the need for the abortion to be based on their medical experience and in “good faith” the procedure could not have been avoided without costing the life of the mother.
Constitutional expert Paul Linton said last month, when asked his opinion about the bill, that it “entirely rewrites state law (Human Life Protection Act) and in doing so, creates an abortion law that would be, in practice, if not in principle, unenforceable.”
The result of the opposition to the bill was an amendment that was added yesterday that essentially removes the “affirmative defense” language, and exchanged it for a specific set of circumstances that include ectopic pregnancy and removal of a fetus that has died, as well as circumstances that would result in a loss or severe determent of function as those that would avoid a definition of “criminal abortion” as it is defined in law. Also included is language that compels life saving measures for the fetus, something that was not previously included in the initial bill.
The sponsor of the bill communicated to the committee that the primary critic of the legislation, Tennessee Right To Life, was satisfied with the amendments to the bill, and now considered it to be a pro-life bill.
When The Tennessee Conservative reached out to Will Brewer with Tennessee Right To Life, he had this to say: “it (the bill) provides more clarity to doctors and mothers without weakening the law. There will be no more terminations under this new language than are already allowed and necessary under current law.”
Other grassroots organizations felt that had the unrelenting persistence continued to keep the law as it is, the efforts would have eventually prevailed.
Gary Humble of Tennessee Stands said “I am going to remain in opposition to any changes whatsoever. I would have rather seen a firm stance on keeping current law intact.”
An emailed statement from Tennessee Right To Life that went out to supporters emphasized “Our main concern is that the amendment language is allowed to go on the bill, and that it is passed without changes.“
There were several inquiries from the committee which included questions about the removal of criminal penalties for those who would coerce or otherwise bully someone into obtaining an abortion, and some complaints about the lack of exception for rape and incest which were never part of this particular bill to begin with.
Once all questions or concerns were addressed as much as they could be, the committee passed the bill by voice vote, Aye’s prevailing.
The bill will move on to Calendar & Rules and be scheduled for a debate and a vote on The House Floor. If the legislation survives the rest of the legislative process, it will be put into immediate effect once signed by Governor Bill Lee.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.