Top GOP lawmakers rally for heartbeat bill

Robert Houk • Mar 17, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Gov. Bill Lee joined top Republican lawmakers at an anti-abortion rally Saturday at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in vowing “to defend the sanctity of life.”

Lee — as did others who spoke at the event hosted by Washington County’s state Reps. Matthew Hill and Micah Van Huss — praised recent passage of a fetal heartbeat bill sponsored by Van Huss in the House of Representatives. The legislation, which would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy, currently awaits a vote in the state Senate.

“I’m proud to work with Van Huss and others to protect the lives of the unborn,” said the freshman GOP governor, who has promised to sign he heartbeat bill if it reaches his desk.

Hill said passage of the fetal heartbeat bill was a “seminal piece of legislation” for the anti-abortion movement in Tennessee. He said barring any parliamentary “shenanigans,” the bill will be approved in the Senate.

He urged those at Saturday’s rally to get the word out to their family and friends before the Senate’s upcoming debate on the fetal heartbeat bill.

Van Huss said the House’s passage of his heartbeat bill wouldn’t have been possible without what he called intense public backing.

“The grassroots support of the fetal heartbeat bill has been amazing,” Van Huss said.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said he could “feel the force” from pro-lifers in the room Saturday.

“In my 30 years in the Senate, there’s only been a handful of bills you will be accounted for when you reach the pearly gates,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, told the crowd he has been on the front lines of the anti-abortion movement ever since he delivered his first baby as a physician in 1969. Roe said he hopes the fetal heartbeat bill will provide a means for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn what he called its “ridiculous” 1973 decision legalizing abortions in Roe v. Wade.

The congressman said the nation has since been on a “path of moral decay.”

When asked about the legislation on Saturday, Washington County Democratic Party Leader Kate Craig said the state’s fetal heartbeat bill is likely headed for a challenge from the ACLU and a defeat in the courts.

“Kentucky passed the same thing recently, and a judge overturned that law pretty quickly on Friday,” Craig said. “I question what our state representatives are actually doing for their constituents.”

More than 270 people and state legislators representing a number of counties throughout East Tennessee attended the mid-morning rally at the Gray fairgrounds. Among those were Ron Carter, his wife Christine and their two children from Johnson County.

Carter said he and and his neighbors in Laurel Bloomery don’t often have a chance “to see the governor and other big wigs.” He said the rally was “a civics lesson” for his son Alex and daughter Shana.

“I want my children to know life is sacred,” Carter said.

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