Tennessee Governor Signs 'Abortion Trafficking Of A Minor' Bill Into Law

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes it illegal for adults in the state to assist a minor in obtaining an abortion without parental consent.

The bill, HB 1895, makes it a Class A misdemeanor offense for an adult to help a pregnant minor obtain an abortion in what the bill describes as “abortion trafficking of a minor.”

The newly signed law “provides that an adult commits the offense of abortion trafficking of a minor if the adult recruits, harbors, or transports a pregnant unemancipated minor within this state” for the purpose of obtaining an abortion, a summary of the law says.

Those helping a minor get an abortion without the consent of the child’s legal guardian could face up to 11 months in prison.

Bryan Davidson, policy director at the ACLU of Tennessee, wrote a letter to Lee in April arguing that the bill is “designed to deprive [pregnant minors] of their own bodily autonomy.”

“This bill harms young people’s ability to access the support of those they trust when they need it most and is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment right to free speech and expression,” Davidson wrote. “Abortion travel bans ... do nothing to protect anyone’s health or safety and will only exacerbate the ongoing maternal health crisis in Tennessee.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a measure that criminalizes aiding a minor in seeking an abortion.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a measure that criminalizes aiding a minor in seeking an abortion. Associated Press

Under Tennessee law, an abortion at any stage of pregnancy is illegal, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Lee also signed a bill into law Tuesday that would make it illegal for adults to help a minor seek gender-affirming care without parental consent.

Briana Perry, interim executive director of Healthy and Free Tennessee, a nonprofit women’s advocacy group, said in a statement that the intent of the new anti-abortion law is to create fear among those seeking an abortion.

“While the fear of state violence these laws are weaponizing isn’t new, the fear of one another that this law will create is,” Perry said. “Every time someone is criminalized and punished for abortion, more people are hesitant to seek help from their support systems. The terror this law will create is the intent of it.”

The new law echoes a similar one Idaho passed last year that would ban minors from traveling out of state for abortions without parental consent. The law, which makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, was put on hold in November after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.