What does the Tennessee House Bill 3517 REALLY say?

Tennessee House Bill 3517 would make changes to sections 39-13-107 and 39-13-214 of the Tennesse Code so that the resulting code would read:

39-13-107. Viable fetus as victim.

(a) For the purposes of this part, “another,” “individuals,” and “another person” include a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the victim of any act made criminal by this part, and when at the time of the criminal act the victim was pregnant.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to amend the provisions of § 39-15-201, or §§ 39-15-203 39-15-205 and 39-15-207.

(c) Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any act or omission by a pregnant woman with respect to an embryo or fetus with which she is pregnant, or to any lawful medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents, performed by a health care professional who is licensed to perform such procedure.

39-13-214. Viable fetus as victim.

(a) For the purposes of this part, “another” and “another person” include a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the victim of any act made criminal by this part, and when at the time of the criminal act the victim was pregnant.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to amend the provisions of § 39-15-201, or §§ 39-15-203 39-15-205 and 39-15-207.

(c) Nothing in subsection (a) shall apply to any act or omission by a pregnant woman with respect to an embryo or fetus with which she is pregnant, or to any lawful medical or surgical procedure to which a pregnant woman consents, performed by a health care professional who is licensed to perform such procedure.

This bill changes assault and homicide law in Tennessee to replace the words, “viable fetus of a human being” with the words, “human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero”.

In other words, an attack on a woman carrying an embryo or fetus, at any stage of gestation, whether or not that fetus or embryo is viable, is the same as attacking (or murdering) two people.  If the woman survives, but the embryo fails to implant due to the attack, then the attacker is guilty of murder.

The law doesn’t state whether or not it matters if the woman knows she is pregnant.  It also doesn’t state how police will determine that a woman is (or was) carrying an embryo.  It is possible that the stress of the attack may induce a spontaneous abortion that is, as I’ve said before, unnoticed by the woman.  

So this may be rather difficult law to enforce in many cases.

In my last post on this law, I went overboard in believing that this law would criminalize regular behaviors that actually endanger the child.  It seems to be restricted to acts of assault or homicide.  The woman seems to be exempt from her own acts or omissions – possibly through intent.

But this law does set a dangerous precident.  It claims that any ovum is the same as any person in cases of assult or murder.  It is not clear that a pregnant woman’s intent to terminate her own pregnancy is not assault or homocide upon her embryo or fetus, moving her from the class of “mother” to the class of “attacker”.

This law is also dangerous in that it could make a murderer out of someone who merely committed assault and happened to be unlucky enough for the woman to miscarry naturally.  An aggressive shoulder-bump in a crowd could result in manslaughter charges due to natural miscarriage.

 

What have I learned from this?  Hopefully I’ve learned to not jump the gun and let my emotions run away with me.  I forgot that experts often comment in areas where they are amateurs – and I am not an expert in law.  So the next time I comment on a law, I’ll do my best to get expert advice.