Today, with less than 24 hours’ notice, the Tennessee House Health Subcommittee announced it would hear HB 2779, a bill that would completely ban abortion at any stage of gestation and allow for abortion providers and patients’ loved ones to be sued for $10,000. (And it happens to be International Women’s Day, though the bill would be egregious and draconian and offensive regardless.)
The language released with the hearing’s agenda indicated the bill is akin to the successful abortion ban in Texas, in that it arms anyone in the state—even without connection to the patient—with the right to sue an abortion provider, someone who “aids and abets an abortion,” or someone who “intends to aid and abet an abortion.” Though the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R), would allow physicians to perform abortions in certain instances that are considered life-threatening, the exception would no longer apply if the risk to the patient’s life is self-inflicted (ex: suicide or self harm). It also does not include exceptions for rape and incest, nor fetuses that have been diagnosed with a severe anomaly.
Unsurprisingly, the presiding health subcommittee who is set to hear the new ban is entirely male, with 8 of 10 being Republican. Even less of shock? In 2019, a member of the committee, Rep. David Byrd (R), managed to avoid resignation—and criminal charges—after he was accused by three adult women of sexually assaulting them when they were players on the high school basketball team he coached.
Legislation emboldening citizens to become bounty hunters on behalf of abortion restrictions has become increasingly common throughout the country since the Supreme Court’s failure to block Texas’ S.B. 8 from becoming law. While the data from Texas has shown that banning abortion hasn’t actually prohibited people from requiring or seeking care—they’re traveling thousands of miles to do so in states as far away as Washington, Maryland and Ohio—Tennessee is just one of many states predicted to follow suit anyway.
For several months, the Guttmacher Institute has also forecasted that at least 14 states could ultimately introduce Texas-style legislation, including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
Dozens of local pro-abortion activists showed up to today’s hearing in anticipation of a fight, and Planned Parenthood is currently circulating a pledge in opposition of HB 2779.
Few things say celebrating women quite like yet another panel of male lawmakers deciding upon the right to bodily autonomy!