Tennessee state Rep. Matthew Hill advanced his “Life Defense Act of 2012” legislation in a House subcommittee Tuesday over objections from Democrats.
Hill, R-Jonesborough, told House Health Subcommittee lawmakers the bill came to him from Tennessee Right To Life.
His legislation, which moved forward with an 8-4 vote, would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion unless the physician has admitting privileges at a licensed hospital where the abortion is performed.
The bill would also require physicians to keep a record of each operation and make a report to the state Department of Health.
“I think this is good legislation,” said subcommittee member Joey Hensley, a GOP state representative and physician from Hohenwald. “Abortions right now are not regulated like a lot of medical procedures. They should be. ... A lot of times it’s not a doctor (performing the procedure). It’s a nurse practitioner.”
But state Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, charged Hill’s legislation would “put a target” on physicians and women by publishing the doctor’s name and woman’s background data on the Department of Health Web site.
“I think in some small communities that woman would be identified,” Odom told the subcommittee. “I think that by publicizing this, it would have serious consequences. ... We know what has happened to physicians who perform abortions that there has been violence. ... There could be violence against the women. ... This is a dangerous piece of legislation. ... I think this is full of meanness.”
In response, Hill pointed out the reports would not identify the patient and added his bill would not violate federal privacy law.
“This bill has been vetted by the Department of Health. ... Their official position is that they defer,” Hill told Odom. “If they were opposed to this, they would be more than happy to let us know that.”
Current state law requires each induced termination of pregnancy to be reported to the Office of Vital Records within 10 days of the procedure. Approximately 16,400 reports of induced pregnancy termination were submitted in 2010, according to the state’s Fiscal Review Office.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, moved to defer Hill’s legislation but withdrew that motion after Hill moved to table it. There are two more Republicans than Democrats on the subcommittee.
Hensley then asked Valerie Nagoshiner, the Department of Health’s assistant commissioner for legislative affairs, how the state gets pregnancy termination information from abortion clinics.
“We let them know a couple of times a year that they are supposed to report this information to the Department of Health,” she responded. “ (But) ... there’s no teeth in the law to force them. ... The state does not license abortion clinics, but we license physicians.”
Before the vote, Hensley noted: “I would like to see us put some kind of teeth into it and ask the department to look at their records and see if (abortion clinics) are reporting, and put penalties in if they aren’t.”
Hill’s legislation moves on for future action by the full House Health and Human Resources Committee.
For more information go to www.capitol.tn.gov. Hill’s legislation is HB 3808.