Senate Judiciary Committee Members Comment on the Heartbeat Bill Summer Study


With the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Summer Study on the Heartbeat Bill just three weeks out, every committee member was contacted by The Tennessee Star, confirming their attendance and offering an opportunity for them to comment on their expectations of the two-day meeting.

The Judiciary Committee, a standing committee of the State Senate, is comprised of nine members, seven Republicans and two Democrats: Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville), 1st Vice-Chair Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), 2nd Vice-Chair Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) and members Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) and John Stevens (R-Huntingdon).

The Judiciary Committee is responsible for all legal, law enforcement, judicial and court-related matters, as well as all other matters not covered by any other standing committee, according to the Tennessee General Assembly website.

The Heartbeat Bill Summer Study is being undertaken by the Senate Judiciary Committee as an outcome of the only Senate hearing on the bill during the first half of the 111th General Assembly, which was held on April 9.

After a reading a prepared statement, as reported by The Star, Chairman Bell made the motion, a move he said was rare for him as Chairman, to send the bill to Summer Study.

All members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were asked by The Star if they would be attending the Heartbeat Bill Summer Study session scheduled for August 12 and 13 and if there is anything, in particular, they need to get out of the Summer Study in order to vote for the Heartbeat Bill in Committee during the upcoming legislative session.

Attendance at the Summer Study proceedings are not required, and no votes will be taken.

Chairman Bell confirmed to The Star that he would not only be attending both days but will be chairing the hearings.

Chairman Bell offered the following additional comments:

The purpose of these hearings is to have an in-depth, wide-ranging discussion about the heartbeat bill and the issues surrounding it. I am going into the hearing with an open mind and a commitment to protecting the unborn. All sides will be represented and all arguments will be heard. This hearing will be a true study. Other than my strong pro-life principles, I have no preconceived notions and there are no predetermined results. The goal is only to advance the pro-life cause. Planned Parenthood is on its back foot in Tennessee. We must ensure we don’t do anything, intentionally or unintentionally, to setback the pro-life movement in Tennessee. We must remain smart, strategic and steadfast as we craft any legislation designed to protect the unborn.

The “all sides will be represented and all arguments will be heard,” portion of the hearing may not be well received by all members of the Committee.

During the April 9 meeting of the Committee, a volunteer attorney testified against the Heartbeat Bill on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Senator Kerry Roberts responded to the testimony by asking the attorney if he knows who Margaret Sanger is. After initially responding no, when told she is the founder of Planned Parenthood and asked again by Senator Roberts, the attorney admitted he is familiar with her.

Senator Roberts went on to read from a December 10, 1939, letter from Sanger to Dr. C. J. Gamble, which he quoted, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

The attorney asked him to repeat, but did not respond to Senator Roberts’ query as to whether he disavowed Sanger’s comments as racism.

Senator Roberts offered another quote to the attorney taken from Chapter 5, titled “The Wickedness of Creating Large Families,” in Sanger’s 1920 book Woman and the New Race, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” (emphasis added)

Senator Roberts, responding to Chairman Bell’s point that his comments were not germane to the bill, said, “I just wonder why we’re hearing from this organization.”

Senator Roberts, a co-sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill, told The Star he will be attending the hearing on August 12 and 13.

His overall objective, as he relayed to The Star, “is for a bill that will ultimately be heard before the SCOTUS to scale back or overturn Roe v. Wade. I don’t believe the Heartbeat Bill as passed by the House can do that, hence the need for an amendment to rewrite the bill. Thus, my goal for the Summer Study is to hear testimony that can be used in crafting an amendment to the bill that we believe can achieve the objective.”

Senator Dawn White, also co-sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill, confirmed to The Star that she plans to attend both days of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Summer Study meeting. In addition to being a co-sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill, Senator White says she is a strong supporter, and “will continue to work to ensure passage of this measure.”

Alluding to the April 9 meeting of the Committee, for which she serves as the 2nd Vice-Chair, and the testimony offered at that time, Senator White added, “We heard a significant amount of testimony from experts regarding the proposed legislation, and I anticipate that we will hear additional testimony in the Summer Study that further supports the rationale for passing the Heartbeat Bill.”

Senators Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) and Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) also confirmed their attendance at both days of the hearings.

While Senator Lundberg did not indicate what he is looking to get out of the hearings to gain his vote for the Heartbeat Bill in the upcoming legislative session, Senator Robinson told The Star, “I will continue to vote against any bill that seeks to impede on the rights of women and families.”

By the time of publication, The Star had not received responses from four Senators on the Judiciary Committee.

However, Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) is a co-sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill, voted against Summer Study, from the Senate floor spoke in favor of Senator Pody’s failed attempt to recall the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was one of eight Senators who reportedly asked to be recorded as voting No to tabling the recall of Senator Mark Pody’s (R-Lebanon) SB 1236, as reported by The Star.

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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.
Photo “Jon Lundberg” by Jon Lundberg. 




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