On Thursday, the state House passed a bill that would require all doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
State Representative Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican, says his bill to put a new restriction on abortion practitioners is simply aimed at protecting women who develop complications after they leave the surgery center.
“Right now you have women who have complications, they go to the emergency room, they present, and the doctors have to start from scratch there. The doctor that performed the abortion is not held responsible. In some cases the doctor is not even in this state any more.”
Opponents argued that the bill puts new hurdles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.
But they also said that the bill is preferable to the original. That version imposed demographic sweeping reporting requirements at the county level.
Abortion rights activists feared under that system, individual women who sought an abortion could be identified.
The Senate version has never been heard. It is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but has never been scheduled on an agenda.
But the Senate sponsor is the chair of Senate Judiciary, so the bill can easily advance out of that panel onto the Senate floor.
But an amendment removed the reporting requirements and limited the bill to requiring physicians performing abortions in an “ambulatory surgery center” to have admitting privileges in the same county as the surgery center, or in an adjacent county.
Nashville Democrat Gary Odom argues that the restriction is pin-pointed strictly at physician who perform abortions. Why shouldn’t doctors who perform other out-patient procedures have to follow the same rule, he asked?
“You got knee, foot, eye surgery, all of which can have complication. But this bill doesn’t say, the physician who performs any surgical procedure in one of these facilities must have hospital privileges. It only says that physicians who do abortion surgical procedures are the ones that are now required.”
The verbal battle pitted sponsor Hill and Republican supporters against Odom. All were male.
State Representative Jeanne Richardson, a Memphis Democrat, later noted that several women were in line to speak when debate was cut off by a parliamentary move. So women couldn’t weigh in on the issue, she says.
“I think we have made it painfully clear to the women, and the men, of Tennessee, who is in charge of women’s bodies, and their health care decisions, and the decisions ultimately, about their lives.”