Van Huss revives 'Heartbeat Bill' for third time

Zach Vance • Updated Jan 26, 2019 at 12:46 AM

Protecting the unborn from abortions is the most important issue in America right now, according to state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough.

That’s why, for a third year in a row, Van Huss filed legislation, known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, with some exceptions for medical emergencies.

“To me, this is the most important issue in America right now is protecting the unborn. To me, that is my core issue. To me, that is the most important issue right now. And so absolutely, what’s going on is evil (with) 60-plus million babies killed since 1973. It’s our generation’s turn and I aim to stop it,” the staunch Christian conservative told the Johnson City Press on Friday.

“As far as the practicality, the question is not when life begins, the question is when does life end? And it’s when there is lack of a heartbeat. That’s when people are declared dead. So I think that’s commonsense, and I want to protect our unborn babies with that in mind.”

Last session, the fetal heartbeat bill lacked sufficient support in the House Health Subcommittee, and it was ultimately amended as the “Heartbeat Reporting Bill,” which took effect Jan. 1, 2019. That legislation requires the results of an ultrasound be offered to mothers seeking an abortion.

This year, Van Huss said he will not back down.

“This year, it’s either going to die or it’s going to pass. There might be a minor change or two, but as far as the premise of banning abortions once a heartbeat is detected, it will pass or it will fail in its current form,” said Van Huss, who will serve as chairman of the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee this session.

With 23 new members in the Tennessee House of Representatives and a new House Speaker in Republican Glen Casada, Van Huss believes the fetal heartbeat bill has a better chance of passing this session.

However, the pro-life group Tennessee Right to Life has already voiced opposition to Van Huss’ effort for the second year in a row. President Brian Harris told the Tennessean that his group is focused on advocating for abortion restrictions that he believes can survive legal challenges. Similar heartbeat abortion bans have been ruled unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, an Iowa state judge also determined a similar fetal heartbeat bill violated the state’s constitution.

“We’ll move forward, and if (Tennessee Right to Life) wants to get onboard, the train is moving,” Van Huss said.

“My aim is not to get it to the courts. My aim is to save babies’ lives. The (U.S. Court of Appeals for the) Sixth Circuit has never struck down a partial-birth abortion ban. I don’t know if they’ve ever heard one, but they’ve never struck it down. The Sixth Circuit is considered the most conservative circuit court in the country so I’m hopeful if this legislation gets challenged that the Sixth Circuit would side with life.”

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling established a right to abortion until the point of fetal viability, typically 24 weeks after gestation.

Van Huss’ legislation has yet to be assigned to a committee, but it’s possible the first vote will occur in the Public Health Subcommittee, which Van Huss and ally Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, serve on.