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VOL. 123 | NO. 77 | Friday, April 18, 2008

Bill Seeking Informed Consent Before an Abortion Fails

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A legislative proposal to require informed consent before an abortion has failed this session and will be studied over the summer.

The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-3 on Thursday to send the measure to a summer study committee.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, would also require a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion to allow the woman time to review information about consequences of such a procedure. Herron said doing so would reduce the number of abortions in the state.

"What the committee did today was decide that women will continue not to get information they need to make informed decisions," he said. "As a result, more women will choose abortion than would otherwise - and that's tragic."

Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers, a Mt. Juliet Republican, pointed out that the companion bill hasn't advanced out of a House subcommittee that has closed for the year.

Some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted a couple of months ago to delay action on Herron's bill said they wanted to see what would happen with an abortion resolution that passed the Senate in January.

That measure failed the next month in a House subcommittee, but the House sponsor has said she would try to rally enough votes to bring the measure to a full floor vote.

The previous resolution, which would change the state's constitution to allow more limits on abortion, seeks to nullify a state Supreme Court ruling finding that the Tennessee Constitution offers greater protection for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution.

The 2000 ruling threw out state laws that required a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, that doctors must provide detailed information about the procedure and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.

If it were to eventually pass both chambers this session and gain two-thirds approval by lawmakers during the next two-year General Assembly, the proposed change would go before voters in the 2010 election.

But Senate Democrats said Thursday that Herron's bill would address abortion issues without having to go through the extended process of a constitutional amendment.

"There is nothing wrong with this bill except that it doesn't fit the political agenda of certain special interest groups in this state," said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, of Memphis.

Some argued the committee's vote was simply political, especially since a state attorney general's opinion says the legislation is constitutionally defensible.

"If it has the potential to reduce the number of abortions, to save one child from being aborted, then why would we want to study it?" asked Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson.

However, Sen. Paul Stanley said the constitutional amendment is needed first to keep Tennessee out of the courts. Without that amendment, "we're not going to put ourselves in the position to stop abortions at the level we need to," said the Memphis Republican.

Read the full texts of SB3512 and SJR0127 on the General Assembly's Web site at http://www.legislature.state.tn.us

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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