Tennessee governor approves penalizing adults who help kids obtain abortions and gender-affirming care

Tennessee Governor Approves Bills to Restrict Minors’ Access to Abortion and Gender-Affirming Care

The governor of Tennessee has given the green light to new legislation aimed at preventing adults from assisting minors in obtaining abortions or receiving gender-affirming care without parental consent. These measures, set to take effect later this year, are expected to face immediate legal challenges.

Republican Governor Bill Lee signed the bills on Tuesday without making any public comments. This move was not surprising, as Governor Lee has previously implemented extensive limitations on gender-affirming care for minors and has consistently supported Tennessee’s near total ban on abortion, emphasizing his strong opposition to the practice.

Both laws will take effect on July 1st.

Tennessee is set to become the second state in the country to pass a law that aims to prevent any adult from facilitating an abortion for a pregnant minor without the consent of the minor’s parents or guardians. This legislation, championed by Governor Bill Lee, seeks to hold accountable those who “intentionally recruit, harbor, or transport” pregnant minors for such procedures. It is worth noting that the law does exempt ambulance drivers, emergency medical services personnel, and other common transportation services from its provisions.

Convicted individuals who violate the law would face charges for a Class A misdemeanor, resulting in a sentence of imprisonment for almost one year.

According to a statement by Stacy Dunn, the president of Tennessee Right to Life, parents have the right to be involved in their daughters’ well-being. She argues that the abortion industry has no right to keep parents in the dark, especially when their daughters are vulnerable and potentially in danger.

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Tennessee has taken the lead in proposing legislation that would penalize adults who assist minors in obtaining gender-affirming care without parental consent. This bill closely resembles an anti-abortion trafficking proposal, with potential violations ranging from simply discussing a website that provides care options to aiding a young person in traveling to another state with less restrictive gender-affirming care services.

In a significant development, Idaho achieved the distinction of being the first state to pass the “abortion trafficking” law last year. However, due to legal challenges filed by reproductive rights organizations, a federal judge has temporarily suspended the law.

In a letter sent earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union cautioned Governor Lee that the statute lacks any indication that a court would view its content-based criminalization of speech and expression more favorably. The organization asserts that the bill is unconstitutionally vague.

Planned Parenthood CEO Ashley Coffield has informed reporters that her organization is currently consulting with their lawyers to determine the best course of action in response to the law. They are considering whether they need to comply with the law or if there is potential for challenging it.

The Tennessee version of the law does not provide any exceptions for minors who may have been raped by their parents or guardians. Instead, the revised statute specifies that if the pregnancy of a minor is a result of rape, the biological father is prohibited from taking legal action.

Tennessee, like Idaho, prohibits abortions throughout all stages of pregnancy. However, there are exceptions for cases involving molar pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, and the removal of a miscarriage or to protect the life of the mother. It is worth noting that doctors must rely on their “reasonable medical” judgment to determine if performing the procedure could save the pregnant patient’s life or prevent significant harm. Some argue that this term is too vague and can be subject to challenge by other medical professionals.

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A group of women is currently engaged in a lawsuit to seek clarification on the state’s abortion ban. The court is anticipated to reach a decision soon regarding the continuation of the lawsuit or the possibility of placing the law on hold while the legal battle persists.

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