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Legislature Prepares For Votes On Abortion ‘Coercion’ Signage

Abortion providers might have to post signs stating that it’s illegal to coerce women into having an abortion, according to legislation passed out of House and Senate committees this week.

But an amendment to make it illegal to force a woman out of an abortion failed in a House Health and Human Resources Committee Tuesday.

The committee ended up approving HB3301 but dropped the amendment proposed by Rep. Sherry Jones, a Democrat from Nashville.

“If we honestly want to protect women and we want to be fair to women and we want to do what’s best for women…the sign should read you can’t be coerced either way, period,” she said. “And that’s the right thing, the fair thing, the logical thing to do. Be sure (women) know the law is on both sides, not only one side.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, who is sponsoring the bill, said Jones’ amendment was unnecessary.

“If your wording was on the sign…I don’t know that they would ever see the sign because they might not show up at the abortion clinic” because they wouldn’t get the abortion, she said.

“I don’t know that it would serve any effect at all,” Lynn continued. “But we know that women who are coerced (into getting an abortion) do show up at an abortion clinic.”

Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said the amendment could have unintended consequences.

“As a parent, giving loving, parental advice to my child to not have an abortion, could I be prosecuted (under this amendment)?” he asked. “At what point does it become coercive rather than a loving parent?”

Jones countered with some questions of her own, asking if she would be charged with a crime if she “lovingly talked to my daughter and told her that this was not the time to have a child and she should have an abortion.”

The committee’s attorney said the answer to both representatives’ questions would depend on how a court would interpret the language “knowingly coerced, compelled or exercised duress.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also passed the measure Tuesday, Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, challenged Sen. Jack Johnson, the bill’s sponsor who is a Franklin Republican, on whether abortion is the only medical procedure he is concerned with protecting people from being coerced into.

“I think anyone being coerced into any medical procedure…is not looked upon with any favor,” said Johnson.

“Considering the vulnerable state that most women are in, in that unfortunate situation…whether it’s boyfriends, or husbands, or rape, or employers, or parents that coerce a young lady into maybe making a decision that will have long-term ramifications on her life and perhaps having that procedure done against her will,” he continued, “I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we would post this in a facility where those procedures are performed.”

Clinics covered by the legislation, if found in violation, would be subject to a separate fine for each day that the sign is not posted.

The measure now advances to the House and Senate chambers for a floor vote. If approved, the measure would need to be OK’d by the governor before it could become law.