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Published on April 11, 2024
Tennessee Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Adults from Assisting Minors in Out-of-State Abortions Without Parental ConsentSource: Google Street View

In a decisive move, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill yesterday that would ban any adult from assisting a minor in obtaining an abortion without the consent of the minor's parent or guardian. Dubbed by opponents as an "abortion trafficking" law, the bill particularly aims to curb out-of-state abortions for minors, which have risen since Tennessee's own stringent abortion ban was enacted after the Supreme Court ruling in 2022, as reported by WVLT.

Representative Aftyn Behn, who has opposed the measure, expressed concerns about the bill's potential to criminalize those seeking to aided young people with much-needed services, Behn was quoted working alongside Abortion Care Tennessee volunteers to broadcast information on abortion access, which currently remains legal across state lines. According to Local Memphis, the bill contends with deeply personal family dynamics and complex situations, as voiced by Democratic Senator Raumesh Akbari, who raised the bitter irony of enforcing parental consent in cases where the parent is the perpetrator of abuse.

The proposed law's reach extends beyond parental notification, threatening criminal penalties—a Class A misdemeanor with nearly a year in jail—against adults who might "harbor or transport” minors seeking abortions without parents’ permission. "No adult, who is not the parent or the guardian of the child, should be able to take a minor without the parent or guardian’s consent or knowledge of it and facilitate an abortion," Republican Representative Jason Zachary emphasized according to WVLT.

The troubling implications of this legislation have been highlighted by critics who argue its terms are so broad they could ensnare grandparents, clergy, or anyone a minor might confide in, highlighted by Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro's comments to Tennessee Lookout, he argued the bill is remarkably unclear to a degree it could potentially turn honest counsel from a trusted adult into a criminal act. Simultaneously, the proposed legislation grants the biological parents the right to sue for "wrongful death of an unborn child," although a parent implicated in causing the pregnancy through rape cannot pursue such actions.

As the Tennessee Senate sends this bill onward, the conversation turns towards the House for further debate and potentially a definitive vote—affecting not just Tennessee, but possibly setting a precedent for states watching and considering similar laws, with Alabama, Mississippi, and Oklahoma on that path—a trend sparking contentious debates on rights, protections, and the boundaries of parental consent as reported by Tennessee Lookout.