TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) and Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) appear to be leading the charge to tighten Tennessee’s state abortion laws.
Rep. Alexander has signed an amendment to House Bill 2779 proposing a ban on abortions in the state.
Sen. Crowe is listed as the current bill sponsor for the Senate.
The legislation would prohibit abortion in nearly all cases in Tennessee.
The only exception listed in Rep. Alexander’s amendment is in the case the pregnancy will risk death or injury to the pregnant woman. In such a case, the abortion would have to be performed by a licensed physician.
“The prohibition… does not apply if… the physician determined, in the physician’s good-faith medical judgment, based upon the facts known to the physician at the time, that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” reads the bill.
It lists no exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
When it comes to enforcement, the bill does not allow for the State or other governing agencies to enforce the abortion ban. However, private residents can sue providers.
“The requirements are enforced exclusively through the private civil actions described…,” reads the bill.
“Any person, other than this State, its political subdivisions, and any officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action…”
It says civil action may be brought by a private resident against:
- A person or entity that performs or induces an abortion in violation
- A person who knowingly engages in conduct that “aids or abets” the performance or inducement of an abortion
- A person who pays for the abortion, or reimburses the cost of an abortion through insurance
Mothers of the unborn children cannot be sued according to the bill.
“A civil action… may not be brought against the woman upon whom an abortion was performed or induced, or attempted to be performed or induced…,” it reads.
If the claimant prevails in civil action, the court may award at least $10,000 in damages. Civil action can be filed up to six years after the date “the cause of action accrues.”
The bill outlines that ignorance, mistake of law, belief of it to be ‘unconstitutional’ and the willing consent of the mother are not a defense.
In 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, typically around 6 weeks into a pregnancy. Legal battles are ongoing regarding the law; it remains blocked by federal court.
Lee told News Channel 11’s sister station in Nashville earlier this week that, “We are currently in a situation with the existing legislation in place that is being reviewed by the court, it’s a very important process. My sense is that we need to let that play out.”
The Governor said at the time of the interview he had not reviewed Representative Alexander’s proposed bill.
A representative for the Clerk of the House told News Channel 11 once the amendment clears the health subcommittee and the full committee, it will be attached to the bill as an amendment.
The bill that Alexander seeks to amend was scheduled to be heard before the Tennessee House Health Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 9. Due to time restrictions, the bill was rolled over to the March 15 subcommittee.
Both Alexander and Crowe have been contacted several times by News Channel 11 this week for comment on the bill. As of Friday afternoon, they have not yet responded.