The Republican controlled Tennessee House has passed a bill that would criminalize harming an embryo, which is a group of cells that eventually forms into a fetus. Republicans say House Bill 3517 is meant to clarify an existing law that allows the prosecution of those who harm any fetus. But opponents of the bill claim that it could criminalize women who lose a pregnancy via natural miscarriage.
The Tennessean reports that Democratic Rep. Jeanne Richardson predicted that the bill could lead to the criminal prosecution of women who naturally miscarry, which according to the National Institutes of Health, around 50% of all fertilized eggs terminate naturally before reaching full term, and during the embryonic stage the rate of natural termination is higher.
‘Fetus’ is a term most often used after eight weeks of pregnancy. Before that, the term ‘embryo’ is used. By passing this bill, Republicans are trying to mandate that embryos can be victims of crime, which would basically define embryos as persons from the moment of conception. It’s a sneaky way to pass a personhood law. And since abortion is the unnatural termination of an embryo or fetus, the legislation could be used to prosecute women and doctors for murder. This bill IS an anti-abortion law that could scare women from getting an abortion and scare doctors from performing an abortion, even if an abortion is medically necessary. Women who are raped could also face prosecution for getting an abortion. But ultimately, this bill could give any law enforcement official the power to pursue criminal charges against women who naturally miscarry. And considering that many Republicans think miscarriage is murder, it’s not that far-fetched. Last February, Georgia Republican Bobby Franklin introduced a bill that would require investigations of natural miscarriages. If a miscarriage was found to be unnatural, a women could get the death penalty. That’s the direction Tennessee may be heading. So, if you are a woman who has a miscarriage and your nosy anti-abortion neighbor finds out and tells authorities, a conservative prosecutor who wants to score political points could invade your privacy and put you through a rigorous investigation to see if the miscarriage was indeed natural or not and could even have you arrested on the charge of murder because of the ambiguous nature of the bill’s language.
Tennessee Republicans have already tried to mandate that the names and information of doctors who provide abortions be publicized. That law would have outed not only the doctors, but the women they serve as well. Clearly, Tennessee Republicans are seeking to be the most anti-abortion conservative state in the nation. This is yet another shot fired by Republicans in their war against women.