In three weeks, the State Senate Judiciary Committee will undertake the much anticipated two-day Summer Study on the legislation known as the Heartbeat Bill.
The Heartbeat Bill seeks to protect the life of unborn children from the point that their heartbeat is detected, usually at about six weeks after conception.
The legislation was sponsored by Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) and Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) during the first half of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly as HB 0077 and SB 1236, respectively.
The House version essentially sailed through the committee process, which passed its first stop at the Public Health Subcommittee on February 20, and was voted on by the entire chamber on March 7. With 65 Ayes, 21 Noes and 7 Present and Not Voting, it was only Democrats who opposed the measure, although two voted in favor of it. Meanwhile, all 7 Present and Not Voting were Republicans.
The bill experienced a completely different fate in the State Senate, where it sat on notice for two months before being placed on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar.
As reported by The Tennessee Star, testimony and a question-and-answer period from expert witnesses lasted about one and a half hours, putting the meeting’s adjournment after 7 p.m. on April 9.
The adjournment came after the Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) made the motion to send the bill to Summer Study, to the apparent surprise of all those in attendance, except perhaps Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) who immediately seconded Chairman Bell’s motion.
In contrast to the typical summer study used to “kill” bills, Chairman Bill committed to a “true and honest” study of the issue with a minimum of two days of hearings and scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13 and 14 for that purpose.
At the end of May, the dates were changed to Monday and Tuesday, August 12 and 13. Scheduled to be held in Conference Room D on the 8th floor of the Cordell Hull Building, the meeting is planned for 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Monday and 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Tuesday, although it may extend into the afternoon if more time is needed.
Prior to the 1:00 p.m. start on Monday, Senator Pody will be hosting a prayer meeting for the Heartbeat Bill at 12 noon.
The Senate version of the bill, which differs significantly from that passed by the House, includes numerous legal statements, many of which address the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The Senate version adopted the recommendation of legislators and other pro-life advocates to explain the approach of the legislation and establish “personhood,” in order to have a chance of reversing the precedent of Roe v. Wade.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.