Lawmakers Pass Abortion ‘Coercion’ Signage Requirement

A violation of the proposed law would result in a $2,500 fine against a clinic, and $1,000 against the doctor, for each day signs are not posted and an abortion was performed.

Both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly Wednesday passed legislation mandating that abortion providers post signs in their facilities declaring it illegal to force a woman into terminating a pregnancy.

However, the language in the two bills must still be reconciled before it can go to the governor.

A violation of the proposed law would result in a $2,500 fine against the facility for each day the signs are not posted and an abortion was performed at the facility. In addition, a physician would be subject to a $1,000 fine for each day he or she conducted an abortion and the signs were not posted.

The penalties would not apply if the abortion was performed in order to save the life of a pregnant woman.

The Senate passed SB 3812, sponsored by Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, on a vote of 28-2. The House passed its version, sponsored by Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, on a vote of 87-8.

Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga and Beverley Marrero, D-Memphis voted against the bill in the Senate. Casting votes against the House version were Democrats Karen Camper, Jeanne Richardson and Johnnie Turner of Memphis;  JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, and Nashville Democrats Sherry Jones, Mary Pruitt, Janis Baird Sontany and Mike Stewart.

While coercing or forcing a woman to have an abortion is currently illegal, supporters of the measure said the signs are needed because not all women considering an abortion know about the current law.

“A recent survey that was published by the Medical Science Monitor, which is an interdisciplinary medical journal, reported that up to 64 percent of women who received abortions were in some way influenced or coerced into having that abortion,” Johnson said on the floor of the Senate.

No one spoke in opposition to the legislation in either chamber, but during committee hearings, some legislators questioned the need for the legislation.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, for example, unsuccessfully attempted to tack on an amendment to the bill while it was in committee that would also make it illegal to coerce a woman out of having an abortion.

“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 during a hearing earlier this month.

The version passed by the House includes a provision not in the Senate bill — which Lynn characterized as a technical amendment — that would clean up the code in reference to juvenile laws, she said.

Under legislative rules, the bill now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate agrees to adopt the changes made by the House, the bill will go the governor’s desk. If they refuse to accept the changes, the bill will go to a joint conference committee to iron out the differences.

Lydia Lenker, spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Bredesen, said in an email that the Gov. Phil Bredesen wouldn’t indicate his opinion of the legislation while it is “still in play in the legislature.”

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