Tennessee doctors could get more protection for legal abortions

A bill passed by the house no longer requires doctors to prove the necessity of the abortion
A bill passed by the house no longer requires doctors to prove the necessity of the abortion
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 9:37 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Tennessee bill could give doctors some protection when it comes to performing legal abortions to save a woman’s life. Some doctors believe it would allow them to do their jobs without fear.

Currently, Tennessee law allows doctors to perform abortions to save a woman’s life, or to prevent serious, permanent injuries. But doctors must be prepared to defend themselves in court, to prove the abortion was a last resort.

“That’s why it’s so dangerous to women and physicians,” Dr. Laura Andreson said, an OB-GYN from Franklin, TN. “You have to balance between malpractice and a felony.”

Violating the current law would result in a felony for the doctor that performed the abortion.

The bill that passed the House Monday would still allow doctors to perform abortions in extreme cases, like ectopic pregnancies, if they use “reasonable” medical judgement. Proving the necessity of the abortion would no longer be required.

Dr. Andreson said the bill that passed the house Monday is a step in the right direction, but she said it doesn’t go far enough.

“It leaves us a lot of vulnerability in the area of other complications of a pregnancy, such as cancer, cardiac issues, diabetes,” said Dr. Andreson.

Dr. Andreson said women in Tennessee are being forced to travel out of state for those procedures, and would like exceptions to be made in those cases too.

The house bill was sponsored by Republican Esther Helton-Haynes. She told WVLT News, “In addition to providing better clarity to existing state law, House Bill 883 decriminalizes doctors in emergencies when they have determined a medically futile pregnancy has endangered a mother’s life.”

The bill passed the House by an 83-11 vote on Monday. A similar bill still has to go through the Senate before it can be voted on.