2018 Legislative Review

  

The 110th General Assembly ended on April 26, 2018. This was a tough year for advocates of reproductive health, rights, and justice. Once again, Tennessee made national news for the Tennessee legislature’s shameful and extreme tactics, which this year included a bill to erect a monument to abortion “victims,” and defunding clinics that provide abortions from TennCare. Healthy and Free Tennessee was mostly in defense mode, mobilizing our supporters to call and email their legislators to fight harmful legislation.

However, there were a few successes too, including a bill prohibiting sterilization as a bargaining chip in plea deals or sentencing and a bill extending the number of paid sick days workers can use for parental leave, championed by our coalition partner A Better Balance. We hosted a successful lobby day on February 13th, with a bus full of participants from Memphis who took part in CHOICES “Patients to Advocates” program, which empowers directly affected people to speak about their experience to help shape the narrative and improve policy.

Thank you to all of you who advocated for reproductive and sexual freedom and health to legislators this session in their offices, via email or phone calls, and especially to those who took action for the first time. It will take all of us to shift power in Tennessee, and we are in it with you for the long haul.

A detailed synopsis of wins and losses is below.  


Substance Use and Pregnancy

SB 2674 sponsored by Senator Bailey / HB 2348 by Rep. Williams we opposed the original version of the bill because it mandated that prescribers who prescribe more than a five-day supply of opioids to a non-pregnant fertile women must counsel her to use IUDs or implants rather than provide the full range of birth control options, which we believe is coercive and wrong. Though that mandate was removed in the amendment, we do not support targeting a certain group of women for birth control counseling. Further, not all women of childbearing age will become pregnant or want to become pregnant, so there is no need to educate all women of childbearing age on the adverse effects of opioids on a fetus that does not exist. We wholeheartedly support educating women on the effects of opioids on their own health and wellness, but this bill went further than that and so we were opposed.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/3/2018.

Prohibition of Coercive Sterilization

SB 2133 sponsored by Senator Kelsey / HB 2520 by Rep. Akbari prohibits a sentencing court from making a sentencing determination based in whole or in part on defendant’s consent or refusal to consent to any form of temporary or permanent birth control, sterilization, or family planning services, regardless of whether the defendant’s consent is voluntarily given. The bill was amended to add that no guilty plea agreement or plea of nolo contendere shall be accepted by the court nor shall any criminal sentence be imposed by a judge if any part of the plea or sentence is in whole or in part conditioned or based upon the criminal defendant submitting to any form of temporary or permanent birth control, sterilization, or family planning services, regardless of whether the defendant's consent is voluntarily given.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/1/2018.

Primary Caregiver Sentencing Reform

SB 0919 sponsored by Senator Dickerson / HB 0825 by Rep. Gilmore requires a court to sentence a person who was convicted of a nonviolent offense and is the primary caretaker of a dependent child to an individually assessed sentence based on community rehabilitation with a focus on parent-child unity and support. This would largely affect mothers, who are more often the primary caregiver.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/3/2018.
  • HFTN coalition partner Free Hearts took the lead in introducing and lobbying this bill.

Medically Unnecessary Abortion Regulation

SB 0244 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 0108 by Rep. VanHuss in the original version, required fetal heartbeat testing prior to abortion and prohibited abortion from the point of detection of a fetal heartbeat. The bill was amended to be an ultrasound and heartbeat reporting bill. This bill was yet another example of our legislators’ unrelenting attempt to promote their anti-abortion stance. Prohibiting abortion at six weeks of gestation was blatantly unconstitutional and so the amendment was offered, which requires fetal heartbeat reporting to the Department of Health. This does nothing to increase patient safety. It is yet another intimidation tactic to emotionally incite people considering abortion and adds another burdensome documentation layer for clinics.  

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/3/2018.

Defunding Health Clinics That Provide Abortions

SB 2148 sponsored by Senator Bell / HB 2251 by Rep. Matlock establishes that it is the policy of the state to avoid the use of state funds to promote or support elective abortions; instructs the commissioner of finance and administration to seek a waiver from the federal centers for medicare and medicaid services to require the exclusion of a provider from the TennCare program if inclusion of the provider in the program would result in the direct or indirect use of state funds to promote or support abortion. Read more here.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Signed by the governor 4/12/2018.

Erect a Monument to “Victims” of Abortion

SB 2227 sponsored by Senator Southerland / HB 2381 by Rep. Sexton as amended, urges the state capitol commission to consider placing a Tennessee Monument to Unborn Children on the capitol campus as a reminder of the inhumane practice of abortion; requires that the monument be funded by non-state sources.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/21/2018.

Contraception Access

SB 2185 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 2627 by Rep. Turner enacts the “Women's Health Equity Bill” requires all health benefit plans to provide coverage for contraception and other women's preventive health services; provides exemptions for certain religious employers.

SB 0883 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 1320 by Rep. Stewart enacts the “Long-Acting Birth Control Information Act” which requires family planning centers to provide information and access to LARCs Long-Acting Birth Control which includes implants and IUDs.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Signed by the governor 4/9/2018.

TennCare Work Requirement

SB 1728 sponsored by Senator Bell / HB 1551 by Speaker Harwell imposes work requirements upon able-bodied working age adult enrollees in TennCare without dependent children under the age of six.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/3/2018.

End Barriers to Teaching About Sex Abuse in Public Schools

SB 1510 sponsored by Senator Massey / HB 2164 by Rep. Moody requires instruction on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse be provided as part of Family Life Curriculum, the state's sex education curriculum. Removes liability for instructors of child sexual abuse for teaching about sexual activity as related to sexual abuse. Read more here.

Pregnant and Parenting Worker Rights

SB 2379 sponsored by Senator Yarbro / HB 2590 by Rep. Powell as amended, extends the number of paid sick days workers can use for parental leave.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/3/2018.

Tennessee Anti-LGBTQ Marriage Act

SB 0752 sponsored by Senator Pody / HB 0892 by Rep. Pody enacts the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” which defines natural marriage as between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Taken off notice House Civil Justice Subcommittee on 1/17/2018.

AG to Defend Public Schools Who Discriminate Against Transgender Students

SB 2480 sponsored by Senator Hensley / HB 2620 by Rep. Holt expands the attorney general and reporter's duties to include representation of an LEA or certain LEA employees in a legal proceeding arising out of the LEA's adoption of a policy or practice designating multi-person restrooms, locker rooms, or other facilities for use based only on one's biological sex.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Failed in Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/3/2018. Taken off notice in House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on 4/9/2018.

Business Right to LGBTQ Discrimination

SB 0127 sponsored by Senator Green / HB 0054 by Rep. Zachary prohibits discriminatory action against businesses based on their internal policies, including discriminating against LGBT employees or customers, among other discriminatory practices.

  • Stance: Opposed
  • Status: Taken off notice in House State Government Subcommittee on 3/28/2018.
  • Coalition partner Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) led efforts to defeat this bill.

Add Gender Identity to TN Hate Crime Law to Include Protections for Transgender People

SB 1943 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 1982 by Rep. Jones adds gender identity to the list of victim characteristics in hate crime as an enhancement factor in sentencing.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Failed in Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/13/2018.

Ensuring Protection from Harassment, Bullying in the Workplace re: Gender, Sexual Orientation

SB 2328 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 2613 by Rep. Mitchell prohibits public and private employers from requiring an employee or prospective employee to execute a non-disclosure agreement with respect to sexual harassment in the workplace as a condition of employment. 

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/15/2018.

SB 2088 sponsored by Senator Kyle / HB 2392 by Rep. Miller rewrites the Healthy Workplace Act to designate certain acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying as unlawful employment practices and to require employers to adopt policies prohibiting those acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. The purpose of this bill is to ensure legal protection from harassment, intimidation, or bullying in the workplace motivated by race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, age, or any constitutionally protected classification.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Taken off notice in the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee on 3/14/2018.

Aggravated Prostitution (HIV+ Sex Work)

SB 2505 sponsored by Senator Ketron / HB 2032 by Rep. Coley allows a court to expunge the records of a person convicted of prostitution or aggravated prostitution if the conduct upon which the conviction is based was found to have occurred as a result of the person being a victim of human trafficking. A person commits aggravated prostitution when, knowing that such person is infected with HIV, the person engages in sexual activity as a business or is an inmate in a house of prostitution or loiters in a public place for the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity. TCA Title 39, Chapter 13, Part 5, 516.

  • Stance: Supported
  • Status: Signed by the Governor on 5/21/2018.

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