KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee Right to Life released a statement Monday supporting an amendment to Tennessee’s abortion ban that would explicitly codify two instances in which an abortion could be performed.

Amendment #005051 to Senate Bill 983 would state that treatments for ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages would not violate Tennessee’s ban on abortion.

Tennessee currently has no explicit exemptions in its abortion ban. The law includes an “affirmative defense” for doctors, meaning that the burden is on the physician to prove that an abortion was medically necessary to save the life of a mother or avoid severe, irreversible impairment.

There is no exception for rape and incest.

Some Republican lawmakers have expressed openness to changing the abortion law, most notably House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has previously said he doesn’t believe the abortion ban needs changing but he won’t block any proposals from moving forward.

The state chapter of Right to Life has opposed other efforts from lawmakers to alter the ban.

The Senate bill was authored by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) while the corresponding House bill was introduced by Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes (R-East Ridge). They are scheduled to be considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Population Heath Subcommittee this week.

“Tennessee Right to Life is in support of Senate Bill 983 sponsored by Senator Yager as amended by Amendment #005051. We have maintained throughout this session that we would work with legislators to clarify the Human Life Protection Act without weakening it, and that is what this amendment does. It would explicitly clarify that treatments of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages are in no way considered criminal abortions under the Human Life Protection Act, and it would change the affirmative defense to an exception for those times when the mother’s life is in danger.

Furthermore, by using an objective standard, it assuages EMTALA concerns by the Attorney General while also ensuring proper care is given to both the mother and the baby.

As opposed to other bills that have been filed and/or presented this year, the clear and succinct language in this amended legislation helps doctors and patients without creating unnecessary exceptions or deleting large sections of pro-life laws in the Tennessee Code. Pro-life legislators and pro-life Tennesseans can be confident that these changes will not weaken the intent of the legislation that was passed in 2019 to protect the right to life of all unborn children in our state.

Tennessee Right to Life would like thank Governor Lee, Lieutenant Governor McNally, and Senator Yager for working with us and pro-life legislators to ensure the best possible clarifying language for the amendment to this bill. We thank them for standing with us in defense of the Human Life Protection Act and for believing, as we do, that clarification is possible without weakening the law. We are hopeful that House members will join in support of the amended version of SB983.

This amended language will protect the integrity of the Human Life Protection Act and allow Tennessee law to continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We encourage members of the General Assembly to support this legislation.”

Tennessee Right to Life