A new bill moving through the Tennessee House of Representatives would require the state to publish the names of each doctor who performs an abortion and detailed statistics about the woman having the procedure, which opponents worry will spur anti-abortion violence in the state.
The Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesboro), mandates that the Tennessee Department of Health make detailed demographic information about every woman who has an abortion available to the public, including her age, race, county, marital status, education level, number of children, the location of the procedure and how many times she has been pregnant. Each report would also have to include the name of the doctor who performed the procedure.
Several health organizations, including the Tennessee Medical Association and Planned Parenthood, are concerned that the bill will make doctors and women vulnerable to attacks, especially considering the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, by an anti-abortion activist in 2009.
"We live in an environment where there is a lot of violence against abortion providers, clinics, and clinic staff," said Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and Eastern Tennessee. "We've had physicians who provide abortion care murdered in the past few years. This is an attempt to intimidate physicians who provide abortion care and the women who seek abortions and to terrorize them."
Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) called the bill "very dangerous," and said the Republicans who voted it out of a House subcommittee offered "no explanation as to why this was something that needed to be done."
"It puts a target on women's and physicians' backs," he told HuffPost. "I think it's a very dangerous piece of legislation and serves no purpose I can tell other than trying to intimidate women and physicians."
Hill, the bill's sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Tennessee Right To Life, the anti-abortion group that first suggested the bill to conservative state lawmakers. But at a subcommittee hearing on the bill earlier this month, Hill said, "I think it's fair for folks on both sides to see how prevalent abortion is in our counties and in our communities."
The House Health and Human Resources Committee is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, and Odom said he expects it to pass in the GOP-dominated House. It will then move to the state Senate, where Republicans are also in the majority.