Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 77)
This law was last updated on Mar 7, 2019
HB 77 would make it a felony to perform an abortion if a pregnancy is viable, which the bill defines as the “presence of an intrauterine fetus with a heartbeat.”
Except in the case of a medical emergency, the physician would be required to test to determine if the pregnancy is viable. An ultrasound would not be required to make such a determination.
Failure to test for viability of the pregnancy would be a Class A misdemeanor.
The bill would require the physician to record in the pregnant person’s medical record the estimated gestational age of the fetus, the test used for detecting a fetal heartbeat, the date and the time of the test, and the result of the test.
The bill would make it a Class C felony to perform or induce an abortion upon a pregnant person when the pregnancy is viable. A physician who violates this provision would also have their medical license revoked.
Below is the original version of HB 77.
As introduced, HB 77 would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, except in the case of a medical emergency.
A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy—two weeks after a person’s first missed period—and well before many even realize that they are pregnant.
The bill would require a physician to first determine whether the fetus the pregnant person is carrying has a detectable heartbeat. An ultrasound would be required to determine the presence of a fetal heartbeat. The bill does not specify what type of ultrasound.
If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the physician would be prohibited from performing an abortion unless there is a medical emergency. If an emergency exists and the fetus has not attained viability, the performing physician would need to licensed or certified. If an emergency exists and the fetus is viable, the bill would require the performing physician to be licensed and the abortion procedure to be performed in a licensed hospital.
The person who determines the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat would be required to
- Record in the pregnant person’s medical record the estimated gestational age of the fetus, the ultrasound method used to test for a fetal heartbeat, the date and time of the test, and the results of the test, including the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat; and
- Offer the pregnant person the results of the ultrasound, including if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The person who performs the ultrasound for the presence of a fetal heartbeat would be required to offer the pregnant person the option to view or hear the fetal heartbeat.
A physician who performs an abortion or attempts to procure a miscarriage after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and before or during viability under the medical emergency exception would be required to declare the following in a written statement to be placed in the patient’s medical records:
- That the procedure is necessary, to the best of the physician’s reasonable medical judgement, due to a medical emergency; and
- The specific condition that constitutes the medical emergency and that the procedure is asserted to address, and the medical rationale for the physician’s conclusion that the procedure is necessary to address the medical emergency.
A physician who performs an abortion or attempts to procure a miscarriage prior to determining a fetal heartbeat due to a medical emergency would be required to note the following in the patient’s medical records:
- The physician’s belief that a medical emergency necessitating the procedure existed; and
- The condition of the pregnant patient that prevented compliance.