Tennessee legislator designs bill that would allow citizens to enforce new abortion ban

AP Poll Abortion
Posted at 6:40 PM, Mar 15, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — An abortion bill based on a controversial Texas law is making its way through the state legislature. It would ban abortions outright.

House Bill 2779 allows citizens to enforce the ban with civil lawsuits by creating a $10,000 fine for physicians who perform abortions and includes language about people who "aid and abet" abortions.

The sponsor of the bill Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough, gave this explanation.

"This bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year," Alexander said. "Abortions, since that bill [was] passed, have dropped 60%."

Rep. Alexander then went on to say the law could avoid court challenges because it leaves enforcement up to private citizens through civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors.

This idea brought up numerous questions from opponents.

"This allows people who have no knowledge, no standing, they've not been harmed, to bring a lawsuit against any doctor who they believe has performed an abortion," said Nashville Democratic Rep. Bob Freeman.

"That is correct," responded Alexander.

Many who attended the meeting wore pink in support of abortion rights.

Such as Alexis Molzen, a grad student, who has volunteered for Planned Parenthood in the past.

"We're making a legal decision about something that's really private," Molzen said. "I don't want to ask what's going on when you go to the doctor. I think it's really intrusive that lawmakers are currently doing."

Legal experts in the committee said the civil suits would apply to physicians.

However, Rep. Alexander declined interviews with reporters and left through a back door in the committee room.

It's unclear who else could be the target of these suits.

Opponents also believe this bill could face legal challenges if passed.

Tennessee is already involved in legal battles over an abortion ban that was passed in 2019.

The rule bans abortions after the point a fetal heartbeat is detected which is around six weeks.