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Protecting the Unborn

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

This information comes from the office of 28h District State Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, MD. who represents Giles, Lewis, Maury, Marshall counties and part of Williamson County.

The 113th General Assembly has adjourned for 2023, and it was a very successful year., Hensley said in this continuing series about recently passed laws.

" We have taken measures for Tennessee to be a better place to live, work and to raise a family, " he said.

Some laws passed this session follow.

Strengthening Tennessee’s laws protecting mothers and the unborn – Tennessee law makers reaffirmed their commitment to protecting pregnant women and the unborn by passing a law that clarifies that doctors should protect the life of a mother when a nonviable pregnancy endangers her life.

The new law ensures that elective abortions remain illegal while clarifying for doctors that terminating a nonviable and life-threatening pregnancy, such as ectopic or molar pregnancy, is not an abortion.

It allows providers to use reasonable medical judgment to determine if a life-saving abortion is necessary.

Previous Tennessee abortion law provided an affirmative defense exception for performing life-saving abortions. Under the affirmative defense, a doctor charged or prosecuted for performing an abortion could avoid conviction by proving that, in their good faith medical judgment, the abortion was necessary to prevent the death or irreversible impairment of the pregnant woman.

The affirmative defense automatically charged a doctor who performed a lifesaving abortion with a crime. The new, narrowly-tailored law replaces the affirmative defense with a strictly-defined exception for life-threatening situations.

These changes will make the law less vulnerable to possible court challenges while keeping the original intent of the law intact.

This law protects the lives of the unborn and the lives of pregnant women experiencing an unfortunate, life-threatening medical emergency.

Prohibiting Tennessee tax dollars from going towards abortion – Law makers further protected the unborn by passing a law that prevents any city, county or metropolitan government from using taxpayer dollars to directly or indirectly assist with obtaining an abortion.

The prohibition includes spending taxpayer funds as part of a health benefit plan or for travel to a state where abortion is legal. It is inappropriate to use taxpayer funds to transport pregnant women across state lines for an abortion.

The Tennessee Constitution gives the State of Tennessee authority over local government bodies and allows the state to preempt a local government as long as it does not violate a right guaranteed by the State Constitution.

Increasing support services for adoption and foster care / Budget – As a pro-life state, Tennessee is increasing resources to improve the adoption and foster care system.

The General Assembly dedicated nearly $600 million to directly support child placement efforts and wraparound services for families.

This includes $190 million for the Tennessee Strong Families Initiative which includes $10.25 million for the Tennessee Fosters Hope program; $22 million to increase supports for foster and adoptive families caring for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities; $15 million to support specialized placements for children in foster care with special and/or complex needs; $5 million for provider network development for children currently in foster care or DCS custody that will need future specialized or residential care.

To DCS, the General Assembly also provided $4.9 million for foster care, adoption assistance and subsidized permanent guardianship programs; $1.2 million to improve the foster and adoption process, including additional legal staff; $1.9 million for an increase in children in the Adoption Assistance program.

Lawmakers also allocated $215.8 million for the Child Care Benefits program to aid with child care services in programs such as foster care, Families First, child protective services and more.

Forever Homes Act - A law to support foster and adoptive families and accelerate child placement, namely allowing for a judicial waiver to speed adoption finalization from six to three months if a court sees fit, providing foster parents with a respite period of up to six months without losing standing as a foster home, and extending care services for expectant mothers.

Under the new law, for birth parents choosing adoption, expectant mothers can receive support services paid for by the adoptive parents for the length of their pregnancy and up to 90 days post birth, as well as up to two years of counseling for the birth mother.

The law allows for virtual surrender hearing and clarifies that surrender of parental consent may be made at any time prior to birth, but consent has to be reaffirmed after the birth of the child.

The final decision cannot be made before birth. Furthermore, adoption paperwork can be stopped at any time, and a judge may waive the six-month waiting period for adoption if the judge sees fit.

Streamlining adoption under Safe Haven Law - A new law streamlines the adoption process for a newborn surrendered under the safe haven law.

It lowers the waiting period for DCS to file a petition seeking termination of parental rights of an infant voluntarily surrendered from six months to 90 days.

It also requires the court to expedite the case to ensure hearing the termination petition within 30 days of the petition filing.

Enacted in 2001, the Tennessee Safe Haven law protects mothers of newborns from prosecution for anonymously surrendering their unharmed babies to a designated facility. Designated facilities must be staffed 24 hours, and the child must be unharmed and surrendered within two weeks of birth.

Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243, at 615-741-3100, toll free at 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or by fax at Fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN, 38462, by telephone at 931-796-2018, by cell phone at 931-212-8823, or e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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