This story was updated at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, June 19, 2020, with more information.
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee General Assembly early Friday morning gave final approval to what proponents say is one of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws with a provision that bars the procedure as early as 11 days into a pregnancy.
Senators approved House Bill 2263 on a 23-5 vote about 12:40 a.m. CDT, sending it to Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican who introduced the legislation to resolve last year's differences between the GOP majorities in the Senate and House. Thursday afternoon, the House passed the measure 68-17.
The American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee and other groups later on Friday filed an emergency lawsuit asking a Davidson County judge to block the bill, which also has "fetal heartbeat" provisions, from taking effect. Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights have joined it.
Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi, called the legislation "blatantly unconstitutional, and I am confident that once challenged in court, this legislation will go on the same legal trash heap as the abortion bans that have been struck down in other states. Gov. Lee is wasting valuable taxpayer dollars to defend this unconstitutional law."
In other final actions, lawmakers approved a revised $29.4 billion budget that makes $1 billion in cuts for the spending plan that will take effect July 1. With the coronavirus pandemic knocking the wind out of once-burgeoning tax collections, the legislation also reduces $500 million in spending for the budget year that will end June 30.
But Lee is already weighing calling lawmakers back into special session after three bills died amid increasingly ugly disputes between Republican House and Senate leaders in the final hours of the session that ended Friday at about 3 a.m. CDT.
"Conversations about the prospect of a special session are ongoing and we will have more to say about that next week," said Laine Arnold, the Republican governor's spokeswoman.
Two of the bills that died were sponsored by Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee. One involved loosening restrictions on telehealth and the other sought to do away with a number of state certificate-of-need rules that restrict health facilities' ability to launch new services.
The third bill, championed by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate Republican speaker and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, involved a business-backed measure. It sought to make it much harder for people to file civil lawsuits involving COVID-19 complaints against companies, nonprofit groups, schools and other entities.
Tennessee's abortion bill is part of a strategy in a number of Republican-led states to challenge all or parts of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings. Republicans and abortion opponents hope the high court's increasingly conservative makeup will at least grant states more latitude in imposing restrictions.
Lee's bill deploys a "laddered" approach, offering various restrictions in hopes that if courts reject the strictest one, justices will consider the next one down the list and so forth, potentially accepting one of them.
Its strictest provision seeks to ban all abortions except to save the life of a woman or in cases of "serious risk" of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function upon detection of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin.
The hormone, produced by cells growing around a fetus, is detectable as early as 11 days after a woman becomes pregnant via a blood test and from 12-14 days by a urine test.
There are also "fetal heartbeat" provisions in the bill that bar abortion procedures upon detection of a fetus' heartbeat at six weeks after gestation. If courts strike that down, the soon-to-be law imposes similar bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation.
The bill makes a doctor subject to prosecution for a Class C felony, carrying prison terms of three to 12 years, if the doctor performs an abortion in those cases. A fetus' viability is seen as occurring around 24 weeks, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, called the measure "one of the nation's strongest opportunities to protect the lives of the unborn."
Sen. Brenda Gilmore, a Nashville Democrat, warned the bill would expose class divisions, with women able to afford it simply traveling beyond Tennessee to obtain an abortion.
"But poor mothers, we're going to be pushing them into the alleys like it was years and years ago and still endangering them," she said.
The bill makes an exception to abortion bans if a woman's life is threatened. No exceptions are made for rape or incest.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.