Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a “Texas-style” ban on abortion after watching the abortion rate plummet in the Lone Star State.
“This bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year,” Tennessee state Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R), who sponsored the bill, told a subcommittee for the state’s House of Representatives. “Abortions since that bill has been passed have dropped 60% in Texas.”
If signed into law, the proposal would — just as in Texas — allow private citizens to file civil lawsuits against those who perform abortions, according to WMC-TV.
“It leaves enforcement up to private citizens through civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors,” Alexander explained.
The bill, which would allow citizens to sue doctors for up to $10,000, will now go before the House’s full Health Committee for further discussion.
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Abortion advocates have decried the legislative proposal.
“If this bill is allowed to go into effect, people who need abortions will be forced to either travel out of state, not receive the health care that they need, or seek abortions in unsafe situations,” read a statement from CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. “This is a heartbreaking decision and one that sets Tennesseans back decades.”
News of the pro-life bill in the Volunteer State comes on the heels of a decision by the Texas Supreme Court, ruling state officials do not have a role in enforcing the six-week abortion ban, meaning they are not appropriate targets for lawsuits, which is a major blow to abortion providers.
Texas Justice Jeffrey Boyd wrote that the law — Senate Bill 8 — includes “emphatic, unambiguous, and repeated provisions” stating civil litigation “is the ‘exclusive’ method for enforcing the act’s requirements,” USA Today reported.
Since the state’s high court ruled licensing officials are not responsible for enforcing the near-ban on abortion, the case brought by abortion providers is all but over. The law’s unique focus on private citizens’ right to file civil lawsuits — rather than establish a criminal penalty — has allowed the legislation to evade constitutional challenges.
“There is nothing left,” said Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which led the challenge against the pro-life bill. “This case is effectively over with respect to our challenge to the abortion ban.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the court’s ruling, calling it a “major victory.”
“This measure, which has saved thousands of unborn babies, remains fully in effect, and the pro-abortion plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the state is essentially finished,” he tweeted.
Lila Rose, president of the pro-life advocacy group Live Action, described the state Supreme Court’s ruling as a “big win for children in Texas.”
“The Supreme Court of Texas has ruled against the abortion industry in their litigation against the Texas Heartbeat Law,” she posted to Twitter. “The law will continue to protect children with a detectable heartbeat from the violence of abortion.”
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