Tennessee Lawmakers Pass Bill Requiring Public Schools To Show Controversial Computer-Generated Video On Fetus Development

Tennessee Bill Fetus Development

Tennessee is poised to enact a controversial measure requiring public school students to watch a three-minute video on fetal development produced by an anti-abortion group, Live Action. Dubbed the “Baby Olivia Act,” the legislation has passed the state Senate with a 21-6 vote and now awaits Governor Bill Lee’s approval.

Under the proposed law, schools must integrate the video, or an equivalent, into their family life curriculum. The video, which depicts fetal development through computer-generated animation or ultrasound, has drawn criticism from experts who deem it medically inaccurate and potentially harmful.

Republican Representative Gino Bulso, who sponsored the House bill, defended the video’s accuracy, citing approval by a committee of medical professionals. However, Tennessee House Democrats pointed to research from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which refuted the video’s claims and labeled it as anti-abortion propaganda.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that the video presents biased and ideologically driven perspectives rather than scientifically accurate information about embryonic and fetal development. State Minority Leader Senator Raumesh Akbari echoed concerns, emphasizing the need for unbiased, medically accurate sex education in schools.

Despite assertions of accuracy from proponents like Senator Janice Bowling, who sponsored the Senate bill, medical experts, including Dr. Daniel Grossman, have highlighted inaccuracies in the video. Grossman noted discrepancies in the depiction of fetal development stages and the timing of significant milestones, such as the formation of the heart.

Critics also argue that the video neglects to consider the pregnant person’s perspective and fails to provide a comprehensive understanding of reproductive health. Noah Brandt, vice president of communications for Live Action, defended the video, stating that it was endorsed by a panel of medical doctors.

In response to the bill’s passage, Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, expressed gratitude and hailed it as a step toward educating students about human development. However, Tennessee Democratic Representative Justin Jones condemned the legislation as an attempt to inject religious beliefs into science education and disseminate medically inaccurate information.

Jones also criticized the rejection of an amendment that would allow parents to opt their children out of watching the video. The bill’s passage comes amid broader debates about educational content and funding in Tennessee, with concerns raised about the prioritization of ideological agendas over academic integrity.

The legislation’s approval would mark a significant step in Tennessee’s anti-abortion efforts, following the state’s enactment of a near-total ban on abortions two years prior. The ban, which permits exceptions only in cases threatening the pregnant person’s life, underscores the state’s conservative stance on reproductive rights.

If signed into law by Governor Lee, the “Baby Olivia Act” will take effect in the upcoming school year. Tennessee’s move to adopt such legislation mirrors similar efforts in other states like North Dakota, with comparable bills under consideration in Iowa, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri.

As Tennessee awaits the governor’s decision, the controversy surrounding the “Baby Olivia Act” underscores the ongoing tension between reproductive rights, education, and ideological influences in public policy and discourse.