Earlier this week, the Tennessee state Senate offered its near-unanimous approval to a measure that would make it a crime to harm a fetus at any point in a woman's pregnancy, including before 6 weeks' pregnancy when a fetus is actually technically called an "embryo." Proponents of the bill claim that it has nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with "protecting women," but whenever Republicans say they're "protecting women," you better believe that they're working some shitty angle. This time is no exception.
HB 3157 would make it legal for prosecutors to charge people who assault pregnant women with an additional crime if her fetus is harmed, which on the surface seems like a good idea. In the past, an assailant could only be charged with additional counts of assault or murder if the woman was further along in her pregnancy, but now, assuming this bill is signed into law once it hits the desk of Republican Governor Bill Haslam, harming a fetus or embryo at any stage of prenatal development would be a crime, even if the woman shows no signs of pregnancy. Who doesn't like strengthening laws against assault? Who doesn't like justice for people who endanger wanted pregnancies?
But opponents can smell what's coming next from a mile away. Proposed laws like Tennessee's often serve to lay the foundation for eventual bans on abortion and criminalization of abortion providers. One of the two lone votes against the measure wondered if the law will require every female assault victim of reproductive age to be tested for pregnancy to make sure a potential cell clump is unscathed. How would this impact the future of in vitro fertilization in the state? What's especially troubling is that the state's Republican Lieutenant Governor described the measure as an important step in the "battle against the culture of death." And when anti-abortion conservatives start busting out the "battle" words, you know they think they're actual soldiers in some cosmic God-war against abortion and there's no talking them down.
According to The Tennesseean, supporters of the bill, which passed the Senate 28-2, say that it was just designed to close a loophole in the state's existing statute which was written to expressly ban the harming of embryos because legislators "did not realize that unborn humans do not reach the fetal stage until the sixth week of development."
Good grief. For not knowing shit about how pregnancy works, lawmakers sure like to govern how they think it should work.