On April 19, Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill 80-18, which allows criminal prosecution for harming an embryo. This extends last year’s bill to the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
This bill allows for homicide and assault prosecutions for the death of embryos in the earliest stages of pregnancy.
Supporters say the bill clarifies last year’s bill, making it easier to prosecute people for harming an embryo.
Opponents state that it would be difficult to prove that harm came to the embryo, because many pregnancies naturally end in the first stage. They also state the bill would bring major changes to the current state law.
House Bill 3517 would extend the law specifically to embryos “at any state of gestation in utero.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, most fertilized eggs die in the first trimester.
As a result, it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove that an embryo miscarried because of someone else’s action and not from natural causes, predicted Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis.
“It is nature’s way, God’s way, of protecting our species,” she said. “I think your original bill may have been OK and we voted for that. I think extending that would be iffy.”
According to Knox News, the Tennessee Senate passed the bill Monday and it was sent to Governor Haslam. The bill passed in the Senate 30-2.
Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, the sponsor, said legislators have since learned that, under the scientific definition of a fetus, the term only applies when eight weeks or more has passed since conception. Adding “embryo” covers from the moment of conception.
Democrats voted against the bill, stating that “embryo” makes it too broad.
Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, told Beavers the measure would be construed to require a pregnancy test for “every woman who is shot.”
“No, Sen. Marrero, I don’t see it that way at all,” replied Beavers.
“All we are trying to is punish that person for two counts of homicide or two counts of assault on that woman who has chosen to have her child,” Beavers said.
The Senate debated the bill before Republicans passed it with a majority vote, with no word indicating Haslam’s stance on the bill.
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