The Tennessee State House is considering a ‘Texas-style’ abortion ban that would allow parents, friends, neighbors and the spouse of a rapist to sue anyone who provides or helps provide abortion services to his victim.
The bill, which would ban abortion entirely without exception for rape or incest, cleared a hurdle last week when a health subcommittee passed it.
The bill is modeled after Texas’ six-week ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court left in place.
The Texas bill mandates private citizens to enforce the law by giving them the right to sue any abortion provider they believe has broken the law or anyone assisting with the provision. As in Texas, the government will not be the enforcer under the Tennessee bill.
“This bill is directly inspired by legislation passed in Texas last year,” Republican Rebecca Alexander, the legislation’s sponsor, said during a committee session. “Since this bill was passed, abortions have dropped 60% in Texas.”
She added: “This is my bill. My intent is to introduce a bill that protects unborn life in this state.
The bill would allow people to sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion, “regardless of their position in the case.” Lawsuits against abortion providers and assistants would result in a minimum fine of $10,000.
State Democrat Bob Freeman asked Alexander if the bill would allow parents, friends, spouses and neighbors of a rapist to sue a victim.
“My guess is that they could, apart from the rapist,” Alexander said.
Although rape victims cannot be prosecuted under the bill, the bill “would allow investigators to ask people who lose a pregnancy how it was lost,” said Rejul Bejoy, a legislative attorney.
In 2019, nearly 6,000 cases of sexual assault were reported to law enforcement in Tennessee. According to the state Department of Health, children between the ages of 14 and 17 had the highest rate of sexual assault victimization.
“This bill, despite being touted as an anti-abortion bill, really does nothing to further restrict abortion,” Freeman told NBC’s Today show. “It’s really going to lead to all sorts of lawsuits and people potentially having to answer questions about a miscarriage.
“It never ceases to amaze me, the bills that pass. I don’t know how it will go in committee of the whole. But let me say this: if it goes through the senate and the house, the governor will sign it into law. Guaranteed.”