Lee to pitch sweeping abortion bans in Tennessee

NASHVILLE — Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee says he wants to enact some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation, which would include banning women from undergoing the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The Republican governor made the announcement Thursday surrounded by dozens of GOP state lawmakers, many of whom are up for reelection later this year.

“We’re taking a monumental step forward in celebrating, cherishing and defending life,” Lee said. “I’m proud to be joined by members of the General Assembly who have helped lead the way in this important effort.”


Lee said he will soon introduce legislation that will ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — which is about six weeks into pregnancy. Similar legislation has been enacted in other states, such as Mississippi and Georgia, but has been blocked by legal challenges.

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Those court cases are expected to take years to snake their way through the legal system.

Supporters of the bills want to bring these types of lawsuits to an increasingly conservative US Supreme Court in hopes of ending the constitutional right to abortion protected under the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark ruling.

‘‘You can’t overturn Roe v. Wade without challenging the constitutionality of it,’’ Senator Mike Bell, a Riceville Republican, told reporters. ‘‘We know that this is going to be challenged. We know it’s pushing the envelope. It has to.”

Last year, a similarly proposed heartbeat ban failed in Tennessee. Lee came out in support of the idea early in his first year as governor, but key abortion foes inside the GOP-dominant Statehouse were wary. They pointed to multiple courts striking down prior abortion restrictions in other states.