Tennessee legislators have passed changes to a law that would make the death of an embryo a punishable crime.
The bill revises a law passed in 1989 that made the death of a “viable fetus” during the course of an assault or homicide an additional criminal offense. The latest revision adds to changes last year that removed the viability clause, and rewrites the law so that it includes “a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero.”
The bill passed in the House last week, and was approved by the Senate 30-2. It awaits the signature of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a staunch, pro-life conservative.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) said the law “seems to go too far,” and that it opens the door to scenarios such as a driver being charged with murder if he is responsible for an accident which causes a miscarriage.
Rep. Joshua Evans (R-Greenbrier), one of the sponsors of the bill, insisted that prosecutors would not file charges if there was no intent proven.
“There is a problem with people being killed because they’re pregnant, or being assaulted,” he added.
Sen. Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) objected to the inclusion of an embryo in the law, saying it would require pregnancy tests for every female assault or homicide victim.
While the law specifically exempts “any lawful medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents,” some members on the House floor saw the tightening of the law as “veiled support” of the pro-life movement.
On Tuesday, legislation was passed requiring Tennessee physicians that perform abortions to have hospital privileges in the home or adjacent county of the woman receiving the abortion.