Legislation to Watch This Session in TN

Following Women’s Day on the Hill yesterday we were inspired to put together a list of legislation that feminists might be interested in following, supporting, opposing, and/or lobbying. There are a whopping 12 bills (!!!) aimed at limiting abortion access, but there’s much more on the agenda affecting women in TN than just abortion.

You don’t have to be affiliated with an organization to lobby, but if you’d prefer to go with a group, Planned Parenthood has a lobby day on March 10th. For those of you who are interested in lobbying, here are 1o Basic Tips for the Occasional Lobbyist.

To follow any or all of these bills, visit The Tennessee General Assembly and create a My Bills profile. This tool allows users to create a personalized list of bills to follow through the legislative process. Additionally, users can subscribe to committee calendars and view agendas.

Our Watch List:

HB 974/SB 1159 Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce and Labor CommitteeThis bill explicitly require employers to reasonably accommodate employees with conditions related to pregnancy when necessary to keep a worker safe, healthy, and employed. Read more from abetterbalance.org‘s fact sheet on Pregnancy Discrimination in Tennessee. If you’re a voter in TN, sign this online petition in support of the PWFA to US Senator Lamar Alexander.

HB 557/SB 663 Family and Medical Leave Feasibility Study – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Health Committee and the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. This bill requires the commissioner of labor and workforce development to study the feasibility of the development or implementation of a paid family and medical leave program at the state level. Read more from abetterbalance.org‘s fact sheet on Paid Family Leave in Tennessee: Studying the Issue.

HB 1353/SB 1394 Access to Prenatal Care – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Health Committee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. This bill directs the Dept. of Health’s commissioner to develop a plan for ensuring that 90% of pregnant women in TN have access to prenatal care.

HB 552/SB 662 Paid Leave Policies Supporting Parental Involvement in Children’s School Activities – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee and the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. This bill equires an employer to grant four hours leave per year to any employee who is a parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis of a school-aged child so that the employee may attend or otherwise be involved at the child’s school.

HB 296/SB 371 LGBT Anti-Discrimination Protections – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee and the Senate Judiciary CommitteeThis bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the list of characteristics protected from discrimination or harassment in employment, public accommodations, housing, financing, insurance, education, in places where alcoholic beverages are consumed, real estate, public utilities, tax exemptions, the profession of healing arts, health facilities, and welfare in the state.

HB 1159/SB 1037 Require Bullying Policies and Consistent Reporting – SUPPORT
This bill would require school districts to develop policies against harassment, intimidation, bullying, or cyber-bullying. According to the TN Equality Project, students need a clear way to report bullying without getting in trouble. The first statewide bullying report compiled in 2013 from school districts showed a wide variety of approaches. Some districts reported 0 cases of bullying, which is not realistic. Moreover, we need more specificity in the reports, i.e. why the student is being bullied — race, appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, etc. We can’t accurately address what we’re not measuring.

HB0539/SB1033 Mandated Education for Early Childhood Illness Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Insurance and Banking Committee and the Senate Health and Welfare CommitteeCytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common congenital viral infection in the United States, yet only 14% of women have heard about it. According to the CDC, 1 out of 150 children is born with congenital CMV, which places them at risk of blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities and even death. This virus is preventable. AWAKE has proposed a bill that requires healthcare professionals who care for pregnant women and/or women who may become pregnant to provide information to patients regarding CMV prevention and symptoms. Read more: CMV Fact Sheet.

HB 217/SB 428 Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse Strangulation – SUPPORT
Recognizing that victims of strangulation are seven times more likely to become homicide victims, AWAKE has drafted legislation to strengthen our strangulation law to make prosecution of this extremely dangerous crime safer for survivors. Assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Read more: Strangulation Fact Sheet.

HB 754/SB 1160 Removing Barriers to Treatment for Sex Trafficking & Abuse Survivors – SUPPORT
Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Criminal Justice Committee. AWAKE is proposing legislation that would help survivors of sex crimes who were convicted of aggravated prostitution recover from both substance and physical abuse and receive longterm treatment and screenings for HIV under enhanced probation for ten years. This approach to offender rehabilitation would remove them from the sex offender registry, which prevents these survivors from receiving medical care, recovering from their abuse, and engaging in their communities as parents and employees. Read more: Aggravated Prostitution Fact Sheet.

HB 387/SB 256 Extends Term of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women – SUPPORT
This bill failed in the Senate committee yesterday making national news — Think Progress and HuffPost — for the question asked by Sen. Mike Bell (R) “With women making up 51 percent of the population of the state, why don’t we have a men’s economic council?” The council publishes a monthly newsletter on their website.

HB 218/SB 1089 Prohibits Custody of Child to Person Charged with Child Abuse – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Civil Justice Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prohibits the court from awarding any form of custody to a parent who is charged with or indicted for aggravated child abuse, sexual abuse of a child, or severe child sexual abuse while the charge or indictment is still pending.

SB 1121/HB 554 Eliminates Custody for the Rapist of a Child Conceived from Rape – SUPPORT
Assigned to the House Civil Justice Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eliminates the rights of custody, visitation, and inheritance for persons convicted of aggravated rape, rape, or rape of a child from which crime the child was conceived; permits the child’s other parent to request reasonable visitation with the convicted parent; requires a court to establish a child support obligation for the convicted parent.

HB 1239/SB 981 Mandates Rape Evidence Lab Testing within 60 Days – SUPPORT
This bill requires that either a healthcare provider or law enforcement agency must submit rape kits for testing within sixty (60) days of being prompted by a victim of sexual assault to go forward with the case. As reported in the Tennessean, past rape kit testing has been delayed years. Indeed, a report by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found more than 9,000 untested rape kits in the state of TN, some dating back 30 years.

HB 566/SB 397 Religious Opt Out of Counseling LGBT Youth at Public Universities – OPPOSE
This bill allows counseling, psychology, and social work students at Tennessee public universities to opt out of serving clients based on the students’ religious beliefs. This bill is bad for clients who may feel additional stigma because they are being rejected by a counselor at a time when they need help. This bill targets LGBT clients. SB0586/ HB1340 

Amendment to Increase Criminalization of Existing “Pregnancy Criminalization Law” – OPPOSE
Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Criminal Justice Committee. This bill requests an amendment to the existing pregnancy criminalization law that would add use by pregnant woman of methamphetamine to a list of substances/behaviors subject to prosecution for assault. The first woman arrested under the pregnancy criminalization law in Tennessee was charged for methamphetamine use after she and her newborn tested positive even though methamphetamine was not included under the law at that time. This bill puts new moms struggling with addiction in jail rather than prioritizing affordable access to effective treatment options so they can get the help they need and stay with their families.  Read more: “The State Where Giving Birth Can Be Criminal.”

SB0587/ HB1344 Dept. of Health Commissioner to Report on “Pregnancy Criminalization Bill” – MONITOR/OPPOSE
This bill was recommended to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee requiring the commissioner of health to be in consultation with medical licensing bodies, district attorney’s general, and the commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services about how the pregnancy criminalization law impacts how pregnant women access health care.

HB 948/SB 716, HB1368/SB1280, HB 50/SB 69 Facility Requirements for Abortion Providers – OPPOSE
These bills would require that abortion only be performed in facilities that are licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers (ASTC), a medically unnecessary requirement that is not grounded in evidence-based care. Read more about Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws at the Guttmacher Institute and why these types of regulations often have the effect of unnecessarily shutting down clinics. For a state-by-state breakdown of TRAP laws, including TN, see this fact sheet.

HB 2/SB 775 Mandated Ultrasounds for Abortions  – OPPOSE
This bill requires that a person undergo a transabdominal ultrasound before they seek an abortion. It is wrong for politicians to tell a woman that she has to endure a procedure that is not medically necessary and that she may not want. It contradicts the principle of informed consent and interferes with the doctor/patient relationship.

HB 989/SB 1190, SB 13 Delaying Access to Abortion with Mandatory Waiting Periods – OPPOSE
These bills interfere with the informed consent process and forces people to delay accessing services. It is not the place of politicians to determine what type of information should be read or shared during a health care visit. Women take the decision to seek abortion seriously. We should offer respect and support, not more barriers to health services.

HB0480/SB1201 Restricting Private Clubs from Locating Within 1000 Feet of Schools or Churches OPPOSE
Sponsored by Democrats Rep. Beck and Sen. Yarbro, this bill is aimed to put restrictions on a privately owned swingers club in Nashville. The definition of “Private Club” specifically targets one club due to the sexual practices of consenting adults. This bill targets a business due to stigma against a sexual minority community.

HB 336/SB 213 Terminates the Advisory Committee on Women’s Health – OPPOSE
The National Conference of State Legislatures explains, at least 17 state legislatures have created or authorized an office or commission of women’s health, including Tennessee. State initiatives on women’s health can provide many different roles, including developing agendas on women’s health issues, providing policy guidance to the governor, state legislature or the department of health; serving as a clearinghouse and resource for information on women’s health for the public; and overseeing and identify funding sources for direct health care services.

HB 756 Prohibits Serving Alcohol to Pregnant Women – OPPOSE 
Creates a Class A misdemeanor to serve alcoholic beverages or beer to a pregnant woman for consumption on the premises. Heavy drinking is linked to negative birth outcomes, but research does not show increased risks for light alcohol consumption. Fetal protection laws infringe on the mother’s personhood and interfere with a pregnant woman’s autonomy. This is a public health issue not requiring a criminal justice response.

** What other legislation should we feminists be watching? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!!

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