Tenn. gov. signs bill requiring public schools to show development of preborn babies

Close-up of ultrasound picture
Close-up of ultrasound picture | Getty Images

Tennessee has become the second state to require schools to show students a video documenting prenatal development as states continue to take widely divergent paths on abortion policy. 

Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed House Bill 2435 into law on April 23. Lee’s approval of the measure follows its passage by the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives in a 67-23 vote last month and by the Republican-controlled Tennessee Senate in a 27-6 vote earlier this month. The votes in both chambers came down along party lines, with all Republicans supporting the legislation and all Democrats opposing it. 

The legislation requires a “family life curriculum that directly or indirectly addresses human growth, human development, or human sexuality” to “include the presentation of a high-quality, computer-generated animation or high-definition ultrasound of at least three (3) minutes in duration that shows the development of the brain, heart, sex organs, and other vital organs in early fetal development.” 

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The bill suggested using a “high-quality, computer-generated animation developed by Live Action [called 'Meet Baby Olivia'] that shows the process of fertilization and the stages of human development inside the uterus.” This was just one example of a video that meets the new requirement. The pro-life advocacy group created the video in partnership with “accredited OBGYNS.” Live Action President Lila Rosen took to X on Friday to cheer the development.

“This law ensures that over 1 million TN public school students will be taught scientifically accurate information about when life begins using world-class educational materials like Live Action’s Baby Olivia,” she said. “TN joins North Dakota in leading the way in human development education in schools.”

As Rose noted, North Dakota was the first state to pass a law requiring schools to show students a video about fetal development. The state’s Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed House Bill 1265 into law last year, following its approval in a 37-9 vote by the Republican-controlled North Dakota State Senate and its passage by the Republican-controlled North Dakota House of Representatives in a 75-16 vote

The video of “Baby Olivia,” shared by Rose in her X post about the Tennessee law, identifies conception as “the moment that life begins,” using a girl named Olivia as an example as it illustrated fetal development: “At fertilization, her gender, ethnicity, hair color, eye color and countless traits are already determined.” 

“She begins to implant in the uterus about one week after fertilization. Her cells organize into what we call an embryo. At three weeks and one day, just 22 days after fertilization, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected,” the narrator explained. “The buds of her arms and legs appear by four weeks. She begins to move between five and six weeks, with both spontaneous and reflexive movements. At six weeks from fertilization, her brain activity can be recorded and bone formation begins.”

The video adds: “She can bring her hands together at seven-and-a-half weeks and separate fingers and toes emerge. She can also begin to hiccup. At the beginning of the ninth week, Olivia will have grown from a single cell into nearly 1 billion cells and she is now called a fetus. She will suck her thumb and swallow, grasp an object, touch her face, sigh and stretch. At 11 weeks, she is playing in the womb, moving her body and exploring her environment.”

“Her taste bud cells have matured by week 12 but are still scattered throughout her mouth. Her mother will first sense Olivia’s movements between 14 and 18 weeks,” the video adds. “Beginning at 18 weeks, ultrasounds show speaking movements in her voice box.”

After stating that “babies have survived outside the womb” as early as around 20 weeks into a pregnancy, the video details how “at 27 weeks, her eyes are responding to light, she can recognize her parents’ voices and will even recognize lullabies and stories.” The video concludes by citing childbirth as the moment where Olivia’s nine-month “journey” comes to an end.

The passage of House Bill 2435 in Tennessee comes as states are taking divergent paths following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that ruled the U.S. Constitution does not contain a right to abortion. 

Republican-led states have attempted to advance the cause of the pro-life movement by implementing laws restricting abortions to the first trimester of pregnancy or banning terminations in almost all cases. Some of these states have also passed bills designed to make it easier for women and families to care for their children, such as exempting diapers from the state sales tax and increasing tax credits available for expenses related to adopting children. 

Conversely, states led by Democrats have sought to further the ideology of the pro-abortion movement by expanding abortion coverage in Medicaid plans and establishing a right to abortion. The major differences in abortion policy between states based on which party controls the government there mirrors the parties’ opposing ideologies at the national level, with Republicans embracing the pro-life position and Democrats supporting the pro-abortion position. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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