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VOL. 130 | NO. 74 | Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tennessee Senate Passes 48-Hour Waiting-Period Abortion Bill

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Women would have to wait 48 hours before an abortion, under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday after lawmakers rejected an amendment to exempt cases of rape or incest.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet was approved 27-5 after nearly an hour of debate. The companion bill is awaiting a vote on the House floor.

The legislation aims to restore abortion laws that were struck down by a state Supreme Court decision in 2000. In that ruling, the justices threw out the waiting period, along with requirements that clinics provide detailed information about the procedure and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals.

The latest abortion proposals came after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November giving state lawmakers more power to regulate abortions.

The Tennessee attorney general's office opined earlier this year that it's unclear whether the abortion restrictions struck down by the state Supreme Court would be found constitutional by the courts if re-enacted. That's because abortions still are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Also Wednesday, the Senate voted 28-4 for legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald requiring facilities or physician offices to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers if they perform more than 50 abortions in a year. The companion to the measure is also awaiting a House floor vote.

In the case of the waiting-period proposal, a woman would have to be informed of the risks of a pregnancy or abortion, and be required to sign a consent form.

Opponents of the legislation say such a period could add to the stress that women seeking an abortion may be experiencing, especially those who are the victims of rape or incest.

Senate Democrats unsuccessfully offered three amendments, including one to exempt victims of rape or incest from the waiting period.

Another would have allowed women to receive information at home and not have to be "in person" when they speak with a counselor or physician about the abortion.

"These decisions should be left to the family," said Democratic Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis, who proposed the exemption amendment. "They're personal decisions."

Beavers said her legislation is not intended to take away a woman's rights to an abortion, or be stressful, but "simply make it plain that a woman needs to be informed for her own health's sake the consequences of an abortion."

Francie Hunt, a senior field manager for Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, was among protesters who came to the Capitol on Wednesday to oppose the abortion bills.

Hunt said the waiting-period legislation in particular disregards the decision-making process women currently have with their doctors, one she describes as "thoughtful and prayerful."

"We don't need legislators interfering with that," she said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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