Up next in the which-state-can-outdo-Texas-while-copying-Texas sweepstakes: Tennessee. Tennessee Republicans are pushing a bill that takes the Texas vigilante enforcement model for banning abortion, while going further. Where Texas bans abortions after six weeks, Tennessee would ban all abortions.
“This bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year. Abortions since that bill has been passed have dropped 60% in Texas,” said Republican state Rep. Rebecca Alexander, the bill’s sponsor. In Texas. But the number of Texans leaving the state for abortions skyrocketed: From September to December 2019, 514 Texans went to 34 clinics in neighboring states. In September to December 2021, it was 5,600.
RELATED: Idaho vigilante abortion ban raises the stakes to $20,000
The Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to go into effect because of its enforcement mechanism, in which any private individual can sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks. Since state officials are not involved in enforcing the law, the court decided, it couldn’t block the law, though it allowed a narrow path for clinics to challenge the law in state court—which the Texas Supreme Court then rejected. (In reality, of course, the Republican justices were happy to have the excuse.)
Unlike a Texas copycat bill in Idaho, the Tennessee bill doesn’t include an exemption for rape or incest. No one would be allowed to sue an abortion provider who had caused a pregnancy “through an act of rape, sexual assault, or incest,” according to the bill—but their relatives would. So a rape victim could then see her medical choices handed over to the father, mother, brother, or sister of her rapist. The real point of such laws, though, is not to have abortion providers be sued by random private citizens, but to force them to stop providing abortions out of fear of the lawsuits.
A Tennessee House committee advanced the bill. Republican Gov. Bill Lee has been noncommittal about the structure of the Texas law, saying it needs to make its way through the courts, but chances are he’ll miraculously come around by the time this bill gets through the state legislature.
Texas abortion vigilante law forces women to leave the state for medical care, state AG confirms
Missouri Republican bill would block the option of leaving the state for an abortion
At least 13 states have introduced legislation to limit or ban abortion since the year’s start