Healthy & Free TN STRONGLY OPPOSES HB2279/SB2582, A Total Ban on Abortion That Deputizee Strangers to Investigate Pregnancy 

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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Last Monday afternoon, Representative Rebecca Alexander filed an amendment to HB2779 to completely ban abortions at any stage of gestation in the state of Tennessee, as well as to create a private cause of action allowing any person, in any state, to sue the physician and loved ones of a person for experiencing pregnancy loss. Not only does this amendment completely block access to essential health care for Tennesseans, it also deputizes strangers and neighbors to harass and interrogate a person experiencing pregnancy loss. Anna Carella, Co-Executive Director of Healthy and Free Tennessee says, “This state-sanctioned harassment and surveillance of pregnant people is unacceptable and a violation of pregnant people’s civil rights.”

In addition to experiencing the physical and emotional burdens of losing a pregnancy, these people could also find themselves being deposed, having their records subpoenaed, or being called as a witness against their loved ones in a civil investigation and trial. Not only will these lawsuits add to the trauma of pregnancy loss, but the financial burdens are enormous–if a judge finds that the pregnancy loss was caused by an abortion as prohibited in the bill, anyone who supported the patient could be forced to pay a minimum of $10,000. Even if the pregnancy loss is found not to be the result of an abortion, the physician or loved one would not be able to recover attorney’s fees. Briana Perry, Co-Executive Director at Healthy and Free Tennessee says, “This bill will further increase the pregnancy surveillance that Tennesseans are facing and will lead to people being penalized for their pregnancy outcomes, including people who experience miscarriages.”

The threat of these lawsuits will prevent patients from seeking care and will prevent physicians from providing lifesaving treatment. Despite the fact that the bill creates an exception for life-threatening emergencies, the fear and stigma created by this bill will prevent people experiencing medical emergencies from seeking care. Patients in Texas have found themselves turned away from clinics and emergency rooms because doctors are afraid of opening themselves up to a lawsuit; those patients have had to drive themselves hours to another state while their life was at risk in order to obtain emergency care.

Moreover, forcing people to give birth in a state with inadequate prenatal care will lead to higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths. 17% of babies in Tennessee are born to a person receiving inadequate prenatal care. The Tennessee maternal mortality rate is significantly higher than the national average (26.7 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 17.4 deaths per 100,000 births), and the Tennessee Department of Health found that 79% of those deaths were preventable. Additionally, Black birthing people in Tennessee are nearly 4 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white birthing people. Instead of improving health for Tennessee families and babies, this bill forces people to give birth without adequate care, which will lead to more Tennesseans and Tennessee mothers dying.

Healthy and Free Tennessee is strongly opposed to legislation that will allow people to be punished for pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant people in Tennessee shouldn’t face the threat of a civil investigation and financial devastation if they experience pregnancy loss. Instead, pregnant people in Tennessee deserve to be able to seek and access safe, comprehensive, adequate care without fear.