(Reuters) – Tennessee lawmakers passed one of the tightest abortion restrictions in the country on Friday, banning the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected at around six weeks, which is often before a woman realizes she is pregnant.
The “heartbeat” bill follows a wave of similar strict anti-abortion measures passed by Republican-majority legislatures in an effort to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guarantees a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
In the last two years, federal judges have struck down “fetal heartbeat” laws banning abortion after six weeks in Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi and Georgia, on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, applauded the passage of the bill, saying in a Twitter post on Friday it is “the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history.”
The governor must sign the legislation for it to take effect.
The bill makes it a felony for health providers to perform abortions after six weeks. It makes exceptions for life-saving abortions performed prior to six weeks, but does not exempt cases of rape or incest.