State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) has filed pro-life legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly which would require women seeking abortion in Tennessee to receive an ultrasound and to see the ultrasound pictures at least 24 hours before having an abortion. The legislation, Senate Bill 632, is similar to that on the books in at least eight other States which require women who would seek an abortion to receive an ultrasound and, in seeing the pictures, be made fully aware of the new life within them before choosing abortion. The companion legislation in the Tennessee House of Representatives, which has been numbered as House Bill 984, was filed yesterday in the House by Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) and now begins its journey through the committee process. Based on the present composition of both Houses of the General Assembly, either the House or Senate version of the bill stands likely to make it out of committee and pass with comfortable margins in both chambers. Further, there is an exception in the legislation for “medical emergencies,” so the traditional talking point of the pro-abortion crowd has been effectively mooted.
Even though there has long been widespread popular support in Tennessee for such legislation, a similar law signed in 2002 by former Governor Don Sundquist (R) that required a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed triggered the lawsuit Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, in which the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a broader right to privacy-and a broader right to abortion exists under Tennessee’s Constitution than exists under the federal Constitution. Hence, the Tracy legislation will almost certainly trigger a lawsuit based on Sundquist by Planned Parenthood and their allies, which it may be designed to do, giving the High Court an opportunity to re-examine the case. A major crux exists for pro-abortion forces, however, and that is that the proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution known up to now as Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 127 will be headed to the voters of Tennessee for ratification in November of 2014. The effort to bring that amendment to the ballot box for ratification began as a direct response to Planned Parenthood v. Sundquist, and if it is ratified that decision will be moot as will any subsequent court decision since that is chiefly based on the outcome of Sundquist. The amendment says that nothing in the Tennessee Constitution can be construed to mean that a “right to abortion” exists in Tennessee.
Senator Tracy and Representative Womick are right to introduce this legislation. At the very least, it will be allowed to pass and enter the books and save lives, whether before or after the pro-life amendment is ratified by the voters, and at most, it will allow for State courts to re-examine some very bad case law.