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UPDATE: Jonesborough legislator files bill to drastically reduce abortions

Nathan Baker • Updated Jan 26, 2017 at 5:45 PM

A socially conservative Jonesborough state legislator filed a bill Thursday he said would reduce the number of legal abortions in the state by 90 percent.

Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-6th District, is backing the “Heartbeat Bill,” which would make it a criminal offense to abort a fetus after a heartbeat is detected in-utero and requires health professionals to perform ultrasounds to look for one.

Whether or not a heartbeat is detected, Van Huss’ bill requires the person performing the ultrasound to record the gestational age of the fetus, the ultrasound method used, the date and time of the test, the results of the test and inform the mother in writing whether a heartbeat is detected.

A woman not provided with such information is permitted to sue the medical professional, according to the proposed law, and could receive more than $10,000 in damages.

The bill provides exceptions for medical emergencies, but requires doctors to list the specific condition that constitutes the medical emergency the procedure is addressing, and the medical rationale for the physician's conclusion that the procedure is necessary to address the medical emergency.

“If enacted, it will eliminate about 90 percent of abortions in the state, and it goes in tandem with my belief that unborn children should have the right to life,” Van Huss said Thursday.

He added that the point during gestation in which a heartbeat can be detected is the earliest markable point in pregnancy, usually between six and 12 weeks, but at an average of eight.

“It’s quite a jump,” he said of the proposed change from the state’s current criminal abortion statute, which sets the threshold at the point of viability of the fetus, which is normally between 24 and 26 weeks.

Because doctors date pregnancies from women’s last periods, most women not trying to get pregnant don’t find out they’re pregnant until at least week four. During implantation, when a growing embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus, blood vessels can erupt, causing bleeding that some women mistake for a period. Implantation bleeding can prolong the time before women take pregnancy tests.

Van Huss said he did not confer with a medical professional before filing the bill.

The current 24-week viability limit was set by the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the country and is often a target for social conservatives.

Van Huss took aim at the longstanding legal precedent in a press release announcing the proposed legislation.

“It is imperative that we protect life. I wasn’t around for Roe v. Wade. I am now and I aim to make this right,” he said in the release.

Other state legislatures have considered early abortion bans, but few have been enacted, and none have withstood judicial scrutiny.

In Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and Wyoming, fetal heartbeat bills were introduced, but did not pass through the committee processes of those states. In Ohio, the legislature added fetal heartbeat provisions to an unrelated bill and passed them, but Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill. In Arkansas and North Dakota, laws were enacted but struck down as unconstitutional by federal judges.

Van Huss said he’s banking on newly elected President Donald Trump to appoint a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court, which may be asked to consider early abortion bills.

“I can't say whether or not I expect it to go to the Supreme Court, it’s not the intention of the bill,” he said. “But if it does go to the Supreme Court, I would hope they would rule to protect life.”

Joining Van Huss on the bill as co-sponsors are Republican Reps. Courtney Rogers and Jimmy Matlock.

“I could not be more proud to co-sponsor Rep. Van Huss’s ‘Heartbeat Bill,’” Matlock says in the press release. “I have always believed, and science confirms, that life begins at conception. This bill is a huge step forward in our ability to protect the lives of unborn children in Tennessee, who currently are allowed to be terminated.”

The bill does not yet have a Senate sponsor, but Van Huss said he hopes to secure one next week, after the General Assembly’s recess period ends.

Van Huss said he also expects fellow Northeast Tennessee House member Matthew Hill to introduce a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks, and he’s heard another legislator will propose an all-out ban on abortion from conception, though he did not say who the legislator will be.

The legislator has already filed another bill allowing open carrying of handguns without a permit and a resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution recognizing “that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God.” Both are re-filed this session after failing in the last.

Email Nathan Baker at nbaker@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jcpressbaker or on Facebook at facebook.com/jcpressbaker.


 

 

Previously reported:

A socially conservative Jonesborough state legislator filed a bill Thursday that could make abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, reducing the current gestational cutoff by three-quarters.

Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-6th District, is backing the “Heartbeat Bill,” which would make it a criminal offense to abort a fetus after a heartbeat is detected in-utero.

Van Huss’ bill requires physicians conducting abortions to perform an ultrasound before initiating the procedure. If a heartbeat is detected, with exception to cases of medical emergencies, the person performing the ultrasound must record the gestational age of the fetus, the ultrasound method used, the date and time of the test, the results of the test and inform the mother in writing whether a heartbeat is detected.

A woman not provided with such information is permitted to sue the medical professional, according to the proposed law, and could receive more than $10,000 in damages.

Van Huss said Thursday that the point during gestation in which a heartbeat can be detected is the earliest markable point in pregnancy, usually between six and 12 weeks, but at an average of eight.

“It’s quite a jump,” he said of the proposed change from the state’s current criminal abortion statute, which sets the threshold at the point of viability of the fetus, which is normally between 24 and 26 weeks.

“If enacted, it will eliminate about 90 percent of abortions in the state, and it goes in tandem with my belief that unborn children should have the right to life,” he said.

Other state legislatures have considered early abortion bans, but few have been enacted, and none have withstood judicial scrutiny.

In Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and Wyoming, fetal heartbeat bills were introduced, but did not pass through the committee processes of those states. In Ohio, the legislature added fetal heartbeat provisions to an unrelated bill and passed them, but Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill. In Arkansas and North Dakota, laws were enacted but struck down as unconstitutional by federal judges.

Van Huss said he’s banking on newly elected President Donald Trump to appoint a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court, which may be asked to consider early abortion bills.

“I can't say whether or not I expect it to go to the Supreme Court, it’s not the intention of the bill,” he said. “But if it does go to the Supreme Court, I would hope they would rule to protect life.”

Van Huss’ bill does not yet have a Senate sponsor, but he said he hopes to secure one next week, after the General Assembly’s recess period ends.

Van Huss said he also expects fellow Northeast Tennessee House member Matthew Hill to introduce a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks, and he’s heard another legislator will propose an all-out ban on abortion from conception, though he did not say who the legislator will be.

Email Nathan Baker at nbaker@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jcpressbaker or on Facebook at facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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