Passions play out at hearing for TN bill proposing abortion ban at conception

Local In TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – A proposed bill to ban abortion at conception drew more passionate words Tuesday on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

Sometimes the debate over the abortion bill played out not just in a committee room where lawmakers heard testimony, but in hallways where an overflow crowd of spectators watched on monitors.

“When we put our self in a position to be God and define for our self what is right and what is wrong, we remove the protection of God from our culture, our society, and our individual life,” said Personhood Tennessee president Paul Vaughn to Planned Parenthood supporter Anna Gordon.

She responded to Vaughn by saying “I think that is unburdening yourself from the responsibility of taking action to protect people.”

“What do you mean?” asked Vaughn.

Gordon answered, saying, “by trusting it to God, which you want to do, it just does not work every time.”

They are some of the words from the two whose views on abortion were clearly at opposite ends of the issue. They were among the hundreds in and around the Senate Judiciary Committee room for the second straight day, who heard witnesses on both sides of a proposed bill banning abortion from conception.

“I think we have heard a wide spectrum of the views on this bill and its impact, and its possible success or lack of success, over the last couple of days,” said committee chair Senator Mike Bell.

He wants a bill to completely ban abortion in Tennessee except when the life of a mother is threatened.

A Memphis senator sees the bill much differently.

“We don’t want to impede on the rights of women to make their own independent decisions about their body,” said Senator Katrina Robinson. “And we want to make sure we protect healthcare that’s available to women. And this bill would ultimately limit that.”

The two-day hearing was a preview of what likely will play out again next session when the bill is expected to be debated.  

Supporters have said they see the Tennessee bill as a potential vehicle for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U-S Supreme Court decision allowing abortion. Opposing groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee, see the bill as “unconstitutional political interference in a woman’s personal medical decisions.”  

In testimony Tuesday, the ACLU’s executive director indicated the group “would immediately sue if the measure is passed and signed into law.”

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