Tennessee latest state to ramp up anti-abortion laws

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Red states continue to amplify their fights against abortion. This week, Tennessee became the latest of that number to create a unique, contentious law aimed at curtailing abortion. 

Last week, the state of Louisiana made headlines when both chambers of the state legislature passed a bill that would classify two drugs commonly used in abortions as controlled substances. 

Tuesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a bill that makes it a crime for any adult to assist a minor in aborting a child or obtaining abortion chemicals without permission from the girl’s parents. Although it garnered substantially less attention, Lee also signed a bill that created a similar law outlawing the transportation of minors to receive gender transitions without parental consent.  

The Volunteer State joined Idaho as the states in the union with what have been deemed “abortion trafficking laws.” Idaho’s law is currently blocked pending judicial review, and it is almost certain that a pro-abortion group will challenge the Tennessee law before its effective date of July 1. 

“We need to protect the rights and well-being of Tennessee’s young people,” Bryan Davidson, policy director for ACLU of Tennessee, said in an April press release. “[The law] betrays that duty by isolating and targeting their support network and discouraging their communities and loved ones from helping them for fear of legal consequences.”

In fairness to anyone nervous about being prosecuted under the new law, it certainly carries a substantial penalty. The penalty for conviction would be a Class A misdemeanor on one’s record and a mandatory jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days. 

Lee took the unusual approach of signing into existence a new law without comment, making it impossible to ascertain his counterarguments or rationale. 

However, an objective reading of the law suggests it is not quite as dire as the ACLU of Tennessee suggests. 

There is an exception in the law if the minor’s parents consent and also language that protects medical professionals from prosecution. This means that parents can transport, or allow the transport of, their minor daughters to an abortion or assist them in acquiring the drugs used in the procedure. Importantly, with few exceptions, most girls seeking an abortion would be required to leave the state. 

The people at risk of prosecution are people who are not the minor’s parents who assist in such a trip against the parents’ wishes, which pro-life advocates say is a means of keeping parents central in their daughters’ healthcare while also providing a barrier between girls and activists. 

“Parents have a right to be involved with their daughters’ wellbeing,” Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said in a statement. “The abortion industry has no right to keep parents in the dark at a time when their daughters are so vulnerable and could possibly be in danger.”

Tennessee Democrats have argued that the new law fails to protect girls who have been raped and impregnated by their fathers.

“There are people who are in situations and circumstances that we cannot fathom,” Democratic state Sen. Raumesh Akbari told the Associated Press when the state senate passed the bill. “If someone is a victim of rape or incest and a teenager, and they want to seek these services, their abusers can determine if they can access them. That’s a step too far.”

Akbari did not indicate how many girls would fall under this highly specific subcategory, but most data suggests the number of abortions that result after rape and incest, much less incestuous rape, is low to the point of being statistically anomalous. 

The new statute holds that the biological father of a pregnant minor cannot pursue a civil action in the event the baby was conceived through rape. 

Tennessee bans abortions at all stages of pregnancy with exceptions made for molar and ectopic pregnancies, cases when the mother’s life is at risk,  and the removal of a miscarriage. 

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