Anti-Abortion Bill Sponsor Says He Can't Find 'Evil' in a 15-Year-Old Being Raped by Coach, Teacher

anti-abortion bill Tennessee fetal heartbeat
Anti-abortion activists participate in the “March for Life,” an annual event to mark the anniversary of 1973’s Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the U.S., outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on January 18. A bill in Tennessee would bar abortions from being performed after a fetal heartbeat is detected. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

During a discussion about a proposed amendment to Tennessee's abortion law, a lawmaker said he couldn't find the evil in a hypothetical scenario of a 15-year-old girl being raped by her coach or teacher.

On Tuesday, the House Health Committee questioned Tennessee Representative James Van Huss about his proposed amendment to the state's abortion law. If passed, the amendment would further restrict access.

As the father of two daughters, Democratic Representative Vincent Dixie said he couldn't support the bill because he believed his daughters should have a choice. He added that, in his opinion, the choice of whether to birth a child is between the pregnant woman, her family and her physician, not the government.

He referenced a comment Huss previously made about being able to identify evil and proposed a hypothetical situation about a 15-year-old girl. The girl was a high school athlete who was raped by either a coach or a teacher.

After the hypothetical rape, the girl felt shame and even responsibility for what happened and kept the incident to herself. In an attempt to move on from the assault, she continued about her routine by going to school and hanging out with friends. After missing her first period following the assault, a pregnancy test confirmed she was pregnant.

By the time the girl in the hypothetical situation realized she was pregnant and was able to get an appointment with a doctor, Dixie said six or seven weeks passed since the rape and a fetal heartbeat was detected. Under the amendment, the detection of a fetal heartbeat would make the 15-year-old ineligible for an abortion.

Dixie asked if Van Huss was willing to put into law that the 15-year-old had to carry the baby conceived after a rape while trying to finish high school, where she would inevitably see her rapist on a daily basis.

"You asked if I could find the evil in the scenario," Van Huss responded. "I cannot because the evil I find is what you left out. I don't believe it's right to rip an innocent baby limb from limb."

Van Huss added that every person in the room was given the "opportunity of life" and he didn't want to take that away from anyone.

Dixie brought up the possibility of medical complications as a result of inbreeding and incest and asked if the bill's sponsor was aware of what they were. Van Huss responded, "I know that it's not up to me to determine the value of someone else's life."

Under current Tennessee law, an abortion may be performed during the first three months of pregnancy or after the first three months but before viability of the fetus. An abortion may also be performed after the fetus is viable if it's necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. In all instances, the patient must be a bona fide resident of Tennessee.

The amendment would remove the residency requirement, but further restrict when an abortion may be performed. An abortion may only be performed when:

  • An ultrasound doesn't detect a fetal heartbeat.
  • In a medical emergency after the detection of a fetal heartbeat but before the viability of the fetus.
  • In a medical emergency during the viability of the fetus.

A medical emergency, as outlined by the bill, consists of a need to avoid the mother's death or if there is a "risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

Under the amendment, performing an abortion after viability would become a Class C felony.

The House Health Committee passed the bill 15 votes to four votes. The legislation will now move on to the House floor for a vote.