Tennessee’s trigger law could have unintended consequences

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WVLT) – With the end of Roe v. Wade announced by the United States Supreme Court that Tennessee’s trigger law will take effect 30 days from the verdict.

Dr. Barry Donesky, the Medical Director at Knoxville’s Fertility Center, was concerned about the way the law was written because it could leave fertility doctors open to prosecution should a mistake happen.

“These laws were written very sloppily and it will create some confusion and unrest in the field,” Donesky said.

For Donesky, his concern stemmed from the wording of the bill, which defines what fertilization is.

“When you define pregnancy as human fertilization, you create a whole bunch of things that create huge problems,” Donesky said. “If this is how we define human personality, it’s a big problem.”

The bill banned abortion at conception.

The “trigger law” became law in 2019, describing fertilization as “that time when a male human sperm enters the zona pellucida of a female human ovum,” according to the bill.

Donesky’s concern was that the wording was so broad that if a fertilization center employee accidentally fell and mixed a petri dish, they could be liable for prosecution.

“An embryologist slips and spills a dish that has an embryo in it on the floor – is she responsible for manslaughter,” Donesky said.

Jason Zachary, state representative of Farragut, who co-sponsors the House portion of the bill, said the bill was never intended to influence obstetricians, only to prioritize the prohibition of abortion.

“The focus of this bill is to preserve life, as far as the fertilization clinic, and I remember a bit of the conversation about it, but this bill is mainly to protect the mother and the life that that baby is in the womb, Says Zachary.

Zachary said with every bill, the state legislature has the ability to amend it, and if this one has unintended consequences that Donesky feared, the law could be corrected.

“If we have to take additional steps specifically related to giving a little more clarity if those particular doctors feel we need to provide a little more clarity because of its ambiguity, then that’s definitely something we will do,” he said. said Zachary.

Donesky believed the solution was simple. It will take to change the definition of conception after the return of a positive pregnancy test to determine where life begins.

“A positive pregnancy test,” Donesky said. “If they really want to limit abortion to that level, this is where it should be, where we have a pregnancy.”

Donesky had additional fears if the law is not amended, it would make treatments such as in vitro fertilization too expensive for many seeking the ability to have a family.

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