Real Progress: Tennessee’s Heartbeat Law Will Save Lives

A whole slew of new state laws go into effect across the nation on January 1; some are improvements, and others are not. Real progress – not to be confused with the ironically named progressivism – is being made in Tennessee.

The new year will see the Heartbeat Report Bill taking on the power of law. While this bit of legislation actually makes several crucial changes, the title makes the primary function fairly obvious.

Ultrasound Required

Currently, a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy prior to fetus viability in the Volunteer State need only prove her residence. Beyond that point, a doctor must genuinely feel that the procedure is necessary to preserve her life.

But as of Jan. 1, with the exception of medical emergencies requiring immediate action, all abortions will require an ultrasound to seek out the fetal heartbeat. The bill explicitly states that it doesn’t have to be transvaginal – that’s the one where the doctor or ultrasound technicians inserts the wand-like transducer to take readings from inside a woman’s body.

It might seem strange for a bill to point out something that it doesn’t require, but there’s a reason. The first ultrasound, if the pregnancy is discovered early enough, is often transvaginal. There’s less tissue for the high-frequency sound waves to go through, making it easier to detect the tiny person earlier. Abortion activists have argued that this procedure is invasive. We won’t get into the logic of how they’re okay with the invasive nature of the vacuum aspiration required should the medical abortion fail – or the incredibly more involved dilation and evacuation (D&E) method, for that matter – but not the ultrasound.

Informed Patients

In addition to undergoing the exam itself, patients must be informed of the results and offered the chance to see or hear the heartbeat. Progressives tend to view this as an attempt to confuse women and guilt them into changing their minds. Given that this law doesn’t allow abortions outside of emergencies when heartbeats are detected, that argument doesn’t really apply here. However, it’s still one of the primary complaints of ultrasound requirements.

If we step outside the questions of when life begins and whether intentionally taking the life of another outside of self-defense is ever anything but murder, there are still two major and life-altering decisions to be made: Does the woman want to have a child, and if not, does she want to take the medicine or undergo the procedure necessary to stop it. The wisdom of any decision that a few days consideration and/or hearing a heartbeat can sway should be immediately suspect. Should the woman not be given this information or opportunity, she will be able to file a civil action for damages of $10,000 or more, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees.

Mandatory Reporting

According to current law, any physician performing an abortion must keep a record of the procedure, including what is done with the fetal tissue. This bill adds the results of the ultrasound to that, and mandates that the physician adds the information to the patient’s medical record as well. Oddly enough, pro-abortion activists – many of whom would be all for opening medical records to firearms purchase background checks – consider this a violation of privacy. Additionally, the amendment to this bill obligates the department of health to include the data regarding heartbeat detection and chosen method of termination in an annual report.

…accurately reporting how many take place each year is nigh impossible.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks abortions nationwide and by state and county annually, but there is no federal requirement forcing providers to give up the information. As a result, accurately reporting how many take place each year is nigh impossible. The CDC can only show what they know, and even the Guttmacher Institute – a pro-abortion organization named in honor of former Planned Parenthood president and American Eugenics Society member Alan Guttmacher – gives higher estimates.

Tennessee will now track abortions statewide, bringing us one step closer to being able to compute those statistics as we do any other cause of death, even though it’s not recorded as such. Even with the incomplete reporting, were the CDC to consider abortion a cause of death, it would be the number one killer in the United States by a wide margin.

The bill also removes the residency requirement of the present law, and it isn’t the total abortion ban many might have been hoping for. But under the shadow of Roe v. Wade, no such ban would stand up. The heartbeat develops between weeks five and seven, and this change almost certainly will end up saving lives. Despite the incremental nature of the improvement, it’s still a net positive.

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