Abortion ban modeled on Texas law advances in Tennessee

Bill allows anyone – even relatives of rapists – to sue abortion providers and empowers investigators to question any woman who loses a pregnancy

The Tennessee state house is considering a “Texas-style” abortion ban that would allow relatives, friends, neighbors and the spouse of a rapist to sue anyone who provides or assists in the provision of abortion services to his victim.

The bill, which would ban abortion entirely with no exceptions for rape or incest, cleared one hurdle last week, when a health subcommittee passed it.

The bill is modeled after the Texas six-week ban, which the US supreme court let stand.

The Texas bill deputizes private citizens to enforce the law by giving them the right to sue any abortion provider they believe has violated the law or anyone aiding provision. As in Texas, the government will not be the enforcer under the Tennessee bill.

“This bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year,” said the Republican Rebecca Alexander, the legislation sponsor, in a committee session. “Abortions since that bill has been passed have dropped 60% in Texas.”

She added: “This is my bill. My intent is to bring a bill that protects the unborn life in this state.”

The bill would allow people to sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion, “regardless of any standing they have in the case”. Lawsuits filed against abortion providers and assistants would come with a minimum fine of $10,000.

A state Democrat, Bob Freeman, asked Alexander if the bill would allow a rapist’s relatives, friends, spouse and neighbors to sue a victim.

“My assumption is that they could, other than the rapist,” said Alexander.

Although rape victims could not be sued 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 Tennessee law enforcement agencies. According to the state department of health, children between 14 and 17 had the highest rate of sexual assault victimization.

“This bill, while it’s being framed as an anti-abortion bill, is really not doing anything to further restrict abortion,” Freeman told NBC’s Today. “It’s really just going to bring all sorts of lawsuits and force people to have to potentially answer questions about a miscarriage.

“It never ceases to amaze me, the bills that pass. I’m not sure how it will fare in the full committee. But let me say this: if it passes through the senate and the house, the governor will sign it into law. Guaranteed.”


Maya Yang

The GuardianTramp

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