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TN Gov announces legislation banning abortions if heartbeat is detected

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday a new "fetal heartbeat bill" that would make Tennessee one of the most pro-life states in the country.

It's all part of a comprehensive abortion reform Lee is hoping will pass in the General Assembly.

The bill would ban abortions where a fetal heartbeat exists.

“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” Bill Lee said. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”

Lee was surrounded by lawmakers Thursday for the announcement.

It would also require an ultrasound to be conducted before an abortion and would prohibit physicians to perform an abortion if they are aware that the action is "motivated by sex, race or disability diagnosis of the unborn child."

Lee said the proposed bill was different than last year's proposed heartbeat bill, claiming it was "enhanced" to be more likely to make its way through the courts. This new bill has a "ladder" provision, similar to that in Missouri, "of sequential abortion prohibitions at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder."

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally reiterated that the new bill is "leaps" for Tennessee.

"As someone who takes seriously the cause of life, I am ecstatic to support this legislation. The many provisions of this bill represent great leaps forward for the cause of life in Tennessee. The destination has always been clear. The issue has been identifying the proper vehicle. We now have the proper vehicle. This comprehensive, tiered approach is our best chance of advancing the cause of life without sacrificing the gains we have made. I appreciate the great work of Chairman Bell and the Judiciary Committee for their contributions to this effort. And my deepest thanks go to Governor Lee for bringing forth this much-needed, common-sense legislation. I support this initiative wholeheartedly and without reservation," McNally said.

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton released the following statement regarding the bill to FOX 17 News:

The General Assembly has been committed to making Tennessee a very strong pro-life state over the last decade. Obviously, we are very supportive and appreciative of the Governor’s dedication to pro-life principles. We are looking forward to working with him and his team on this issue, as well as his legislative vision. I know members of the House and the chairmen are eager to review the proposed language and continue their strong support for life.

Tennessee Democratic politiciansaddressed the proposedbill less than an hour after its announcement at the Cordell Hull Press Conference room on Thursday, which can be viewed below. Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini, released the following statement to FOX 17 News on Thursday morning:

"No politician should be in the middle of the decision to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child. This is always a heart wrenching decision and must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, in consultation with her doctor or health care provider.

"If Republicans were acting in the best interests of women and families they would put forth real solutions. They would work with Democrats to legitimately reduce the number of unintended pregnancies through policy that will actually work: Age-appropriate reproductive health education (including teaching abstinence) and access to affordable contraceptives and affordable reproductive health for all."

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