Tennessee lawmakers seek total ban on abortion; public hearing scheduled

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are once again considering a bill that would call for a total ban on abortions.

The state will hold a public hearing on SB 1236 Monday, August 12 and Tuesday, August 13 at the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville.

The public testimony is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday and 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

The General Assembly nearly passed a law to ban abortion at six weeks earlier this year, but it narrowly failed in the Senate.

Now, lawmakers will consider both the six-week ban and a total ban as possible options.

First introduced by Republican Senator Mark Pody, SB 1236 prohibits abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected.

If a heartbeat is detected, an abortion could not be performed except for certain circumstances such as medical emergencies.

Several advocate groups are planning protests during the public testimony including Healthy and Free Tennessee and ACLU of Tennessee.

The ACLU-TN says such laws effectively ban abortions and “drastically limits the constitutional right to make our own medical decisions and places an undue burden on a person seeking legal and safe reproductive care.”

In an effort to make the voices of those who oppose the legislation heard, the ACLU-TN states they will provide buses for residents of Memphis and Knoxville to be bused into Nashville for the hearings.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has previously stated he supports banning an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The sentiment was echoed by then House Speaker Glen Casada and Senate Speaker Randy McNally.

However, the bill -as with similar bills in other states, could face legal hurdles. In 2017, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III issued an opinion stating a heartbeat provision is constitutionally suspect because similar laws had been struck down in federal courts.