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Tennessee Governor Approves to Penalize Adults Who Help Minors Get Abortions, Gender-Affirming Care

Tennessee’s governor has approved legislation aimed at preventing adults from helping minors get an abortion or receive gender-affirming care without parental consent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s governor has approved legislation aimed at preventing adults from helping minors get an abortion or receive gender-affirming care without parental consent. These proposals are likely to face immediate legal challenges when they come into effect later this year.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee quietly signed the bills into law without comment on Tuesday. However, the governor’s actions were not unexpected. During his time in office, Lee has introduced sweeping restrictions on gender-affirming care for young people and has defended Tennessee’s near-total ban on abortion while emphasizing his opposition to the procedure.

Both laws will come into effect on July 1.

Lee’s actions mean that Tennessee will soon become the second state in the country to pass legislation that supporters say will stop any adult who “intentionally recruits, harbors or transports a pregnant minor” within the state from having an abortion without consent of the minor’s parents. or guardians. Ambulance drivers, emergency medical services personnel and other usual transportation services are exempt under the law.

Those convicted of violating the law would be charged with a class A misdemeanor, which requires a prison sentence of nearly a year.

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

Meanwhile, Tennessee is the first state to date to punish adults who help minors get gender-affirming care without parental consent. The bill mirrors nearly the same language as a purported anti-abortion trafficking proposal, where violations could range from talking to an adolescent about a website about where to find care to helping that young person travel to another state with looser restrictions on area of ​​gender. confirm care provision.

Last year, Idaho became the first state to enact the so-called “abortion trafficking” law, but a federal judge has since temporarily blocked the law after reproductive rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging it.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Governor Lee earlier this month warning that “there is nothing” in the statute that “suggests that a court will look more favorably on the content-based criminalization of speech and expression,” as they put it describe the bill. as ‘unconstitutionally vague’.

At the same time, Planned Parenthood CEO Ashley Coffield told reporters that her organization was “consulting with our attorneys about how to enforce the law if we need to comply or whether we can challenge the law.”

The Tennessee version does not include exemptions for minors who may have been raped by their parents or guardians. Instead, the new statute provides that the pregnant minor’s biological father may not pursue a civil action if the pregnancy resulted from rape.

Like Idaho, Tennessee prohibits abortions at all stages of pregnancy, but there are exceptions in cases of molar pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, and to reverse a miscarriage or to save the life of the mother. Specifically, doctors must use their “reasonable medical” judgment — a term that some say is too vague and could be challenged by fellow medical officials — when deciding whether offering the procedure will save the pregnant patient’s life or cause serious harm can occur.

A group of women are currently filing a lawsuit to clarify the state’s abortion ban. A court ruling is expected soon on whether the lawsuit can continue or whether the law can be suspended as the legal battle continues.

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