Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs bill requiring fetal development videos in public schools

By: Vivian Jones 04/23/24

Nashville Tennessean


School children in most Tennessee counties will be required to view a three-minute animated video depicting fetal development, such as one produced by a political group that advocates against abortion, a under a bill signed by Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday.

HB 2435/SB 2767 mandates the inclusion of a 3-minute computer-generated or high definition ultrasound video depicting fetal development in family life curricula across the state beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

The new state law cites as an example an animation developed by Live Action, a political advocacy group, that asserts that human life begins at conception. While the law does not specifically require viewing of Live Action’s animation “Meet Baby Olivia,” the law touts it as an example of one that would fit the stringent requirements. The legislation is titled the Baby Olivia Act.

“Meet Baby Olivia” describes for young viewers the timeline of fetal development based on one that does not align with the U.S. medical standard. The video describes development in the weeks beginning at fertilization, not the U.S. medical standard of measuring gestational age based on a woman’s last menstrual period. 

Proponents of the “Baby Olivia” video argue the difference in calculating age is a feature of the video. Critics of the measure have questioned the video’s neutrality and medical accuracy, say the video could be misleading or confusing to young viewers, and called it an effort “to advance the idea that fetuses are people and that abortion care is wrong.”

Similar legislation, all specifically referencing Live Action’s Baby Olivia video, has passed or is being considered in Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Iowa.

Tennessee’s family life curriculum is required by state law in all counties where the teen birth rate exceeds 19.5 per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19. That’s 78 of the state’s 95 counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vivian Jones covers state government and politics for The Tennessean. Reach her at vjones@tennessean.com or on X at @Vivian_E_Jones.