Van Huss files bill allowing cities to count fetuses for allocation of state funds

David Floyd • Feb 11, 2020 at 6:11 PM

State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, has filed a bill in the General Assembly that would allow local governments to take a voluntary census of “unborn children,” which would be factored into the proportion of funding they receive from the state.

“Should we be successful with this legislation it would create more funds for our cities and recognize the humanity of our unborn,” Van Huss, who is up for reelection this year, said by email. “I look forward to presenting it in committee.”

The description of House Bill 2296 on the General Assembly’s website says: “As introduced, authorizes local governments to take special censuses that include unborn children; requires that any state funds distributed and allocated to local governments based on population use such special census figures.”

The bill defines “unborn children” as “individual living members of the species homo sapiens” from fertilization to full gestation and childbirth, including as an embryo and fetus.

The proposed law says cities or counties can, at their own expense, conduct a special census at any time between regular federal census years. The special census must be conducted by the “federal bureau of the census” or in a way that’s directed by and satisfactory to the department of economic and community development.

The bill doesn’t have a fiscal note. It was filed for introduction in the House on Feb. 4 and the Senate on Jan. 30. It passed on second consideration in the House and Senate on Feb. 6 and has been referred to committees.

State Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, is sponsoring the bill in the Senate and said Tuesday that cities should be able to count the life of a fetus.

“Because they’re going to have educate that child, they’re going to have to do the medical expenses for that child, they’re going to have to make sure that housing and infrastructure is there,” he said. “So even though that child might not be born, it will definitely affect the amount of money they’ve got to spend.”

The count of fetuses would be conducted “the same way any census is,” Pody said, with fetuses being included, for example, in door-to-door or mail-in counts of the number of people living in a household.

The proposed legislation has been filed as the U.S. Census Bureau gears up for its 2020 Census, which is conducted once every 10 years. The U.S. Census Bureau anticipates citizens will receive between March 12-20 an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census.

The 2020 Census, a tool used to determine the allocation of state and federal money and representation in elected bodies, won’t count fetuses.

Pody is also sponsoring a bill in the Senate that would prohibit abortion from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected. Van Huss is carrying the bill in the House.

“If I really believe that’s a person, then they should be counted as such,” Pody said, explaining the connection between the proposed census law and the abortion debate.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said she would need to learn more about the specifics before she could comment on the bill in a detailed manner. She noted that not all pregnancies end in full-term babies.

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