Tennessee state Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) introduced a bill earlier this week that would force women to have a mandatory ultrasound no less than 24 hours before having an abortion.
Senate Bill 632 [PDF] would require women seeking an abortion to be shown a transabdominal ultrasound and listen to any detected heartbeat. If a woman refuses to see the ultrasound, an ultrasound technician must describe the image. Women will also be offered a printed copy of the ultrasound. After having the ultrasound, a woman must wait at least 24 hours before proceeding with an abortion.
Tennessee House Democrats issued a statement condemning Senator Tracy’s bill. Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said “If Sen. Tracy is truly interested in preventing abortions, he should take the money that we will have to pay to defend this potentially unconstitutional law and put it toward preventative contraception, prenatal health care, and pre-K education… As a woman and a teacher, I wish my fellow legislators would focus less time on trying to play doctor, and more time on helping women gain access to quality health care, a good education, and higher-paying jobs.” Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) said, “Tennessee’s women should not have to suffer more intrusive laws that violate their right to privacy just so Sen. Tracy can polish his conservative credentials in his race against Congressman Scott DesJarlais [for U.S. Representative]… Republicans have spent the past three years complaining about how the government shouldn’t stand between a patient and their doctor, but with this legislation that is exactly what they are trying to do.”
Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee CEO Jeff Teague spoke with local news outlet WKRN about the proposed bill: “These are decisions, private medical decisions that women should be able to make without any interference or intrusion from the government… telling women information in cases when they don’t want to hear it, forcing women against their will to have the information is designed to shame them, to coerce them and with the intent for them to change their minds about decisions they’ve already made, is never a good idea.”
According to the Tennessean, mandatory waiting periods have been struck down in Tennessee before as a result of a privacy clause in the state’s Constitution. If Senate Bill 632 were to pass, the measure would likely see legal challenges.