Texas is often the epicenter of extreme rightwing legislation that gets exported to other red states. That pattern is holding true with a new crop of abortions bans that copies the disturbing citizen vigilante enforcement feature of Senate Bill 8, which took effect last September.
Senate Bill 8 is also more than a six-week abortion ban. The legislation allows virtually anyone to file a lawsuit against an abortion provider or any person they believe aided or abetted an abortion in Texas.
Earlier this week, Idaho became the first state to pass their own six-week abortion ban in their legislature featuring the same citizen vigilante and bounty language. Notably, Idaho’s new bill goes even further in Texas in that it allows relatives of a fetus to file a lawsuit against an abortion provider in the state. It also ups the potential “bounty” to $20,000 as opposed to $10,000 in Texas. While there is an exception for terminating a pregnancy as a result of rape, that only applies if a police reports was filed.
Idaho, however, is hardly the only state on the brink of passing a law modeled after SB 8. A state representative in Tennessee this week introduced legislation modeled after the Texas abortion. That proposed legislation would also give family members of a fetus a legal opportunity to sue an abortion provider. And while a rapist would be prohibited from suing, their family members could.
When Tennessee State Rep. Rebecca Alexander talked about the six-week abortion ban, she directly credited Texas. “This bill is modeled directly after the legislation passed in Texas last year,” she said on the Tennessee house floor. “Abortions since that bill has been passed have dropped 60 percent in Texas.”
In a statement, Planned Parenthood’s president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson rebuked states for trying to implement a Texas-like ban. “It is appalling that anyone could look at the chaos and harm in Texas over the past six months and think, ‘I want that for the people in my state,’” she said.
With Roe v. Wade likely overturned this summer, more states are likely to enact legislation modeled after SB 8. The Oklahoma state senate passed a slew of anti-abortion bills, including a six-week abortion, that will now be deliberated in the state house.
In a statement to the Signal, Elisabeth Smith, the director of state policy and advocacy for the Center for Reproductive Rights noted the chilling impact of SB 8 around the country. “Abortion rights activists have been warning of this nightmare for months: these bounty hunter laws could enable more and more states to ban abortion nearly entirely even while Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land,” she said. “This is not only unconstitutional, it’s inhumane, and legislators more committed to banning abortion than protecting the rule of law are spreading it across the country,” said Smith.
Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images