Womick shelves ultrasound abortion bill, seeks Black Caucus support for 2016 try

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that originally sought to require ultrasound images be shown or described to women seeking abortions in Tennessee has been withdrawn for the year.

The House Health Subcommittee was poised Tuesday to send Rep. Rick Womick’s bill (HB2) to study committee after the Legislature adjourns for the year. But the Murfreesboro Republican instead persuaded the panel to reschedule the bill for the subcommittee’s first meeting of 2016.

Womick had proposed an amendment to give the patient the option to view the ultrasound before undergoing the procedure. Several committee members expressed concern about a 24-hour waiting period that could conflict with other legislation seeking to establish a 48-hour waiting period for abortions.

Changes in Tennessee’s abortion laws were made possible by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November.

Note: After the subcommittee action, Womick appeared before a meeting of the Legislature’s Black Caucus to urge that members support the measure next year.

“The number one cause of death in the black community is abortion,” Womick told caucus members. “More black children are aborted in New York City than are born.”

Womick cited statistics that he said indicate African-Americans comprise 12.6 percent of the national population while 35.4 percent of abortions performed nationally are for African-American women. Further, he said 78 percent of all Planned Parenthood clinics “are within walking distance of minority neighborhoods.”

“It makes me angry, personally,” he said.

Caucus Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, thanked Womick for his presentation and said caucus members would welcome hearing more detailed information. After he left, she allowed Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, to speak to the group as well.

Teague said he was surprised by Womick’s comments and “many of them are unequivocally not true.” He said Planned Parenthood centers, which provide services other than abortion to economically-disadvantaged women, are are located in areas of “greater need.” He offered to locate statistical information other Womick contentions.

Subsequently, some caucus members such as Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, voiced skepticism about Womick’s contentions. Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, said that the push for greater restrictions on abortion for the poor is “coming from the very people who don’t want to give them health insurance.”