Tennessee law banning abortions takes effect

Trigger’ statute a result of Supreme Court ruling returning authority to states      

By The East Tennessee Catholic

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey on June 24, the regulation of abortion returned to states.

More than a dozen states had passed “trigger laws” intended to outlaw abortion as soon as the federal right to abortion that Roe established was struck down.

Some of those laws took effect immediately after the ruling, with no further action needed. In several states, however, the trigger law required certification by the state attorney general, governor, or legislature.

A few trigger laws, such as in Louisiana, Texas, and Utah, were temporarily blocked in court and subject to judicial review.

Tennessee is one of the states to pass a trigger law, which went into effect Aug. 25.

In Tennessee, abortion would be a Class C felony offense for the person performing it, unless the woman’s life is in danger or at serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

Many Tennesseans, including those in the Catholic Church, have questions about the state’s new trigger law. Here are answers from Tennessee Right to Life to a number of questions being asked about the state’s new statute.

Is abortion illegal now?

Abortion is not immediately illegal across the United States. The issue has been returned to the states. Now, the citizens and their duly elected legislators can decide how best to care for women and their unborn children.

In some states, abortion in any form will be outlawed, and sadly in some states, abortion will be even more accessible than before.

What happens in Tennessee?

A trigger law took effect Aug. 25, and abortion will be illegal except when a mother’s life is in danger. Twenty other states have similar laws that will soon protect unborn children from abortion.

Does the law make it illegal for a woman to get an abortion in another state?

No, Tennessee law does not prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion in another state. However, Tennessee women should be aware that those states will have few safety measures in place to protect them from unregulated abortion facilities and abortion providers.

Tennessee cannot make it illegal to travel to another state for an abortion.

Will women be arrested for seeking an abortion?

No, Tennessee law specifically states that a woman seeking or obtaining an abortion will not be charged or prosecuted.

In this situation, the woman and her child are both considered victims of a predatory abortion industry that has preyed on women for nearly 50 years under Roe and will profit from her abortion. Only the person performing or assisting with the abortion can be prosecuted.

Tennessee Right to Life will continue to oppose any legislation that criminalizes the actions of the mother.

Is the abortion pill also illegal in Tennessee?

Yes, the chemical abortion, RU-486, is included in the methods of abortion that are illegal in Tennessee.

Can the abortion pill be ordered by mail or through telemedicine?

Tennessee law prohibits the dispensation of “the abortion pill” by anyone other than a physician while in the presence of the woman.

Therefore, the prescription and dispensation of RU-486 by “telemed” or through the mail is illegal in Tennessee.

What will keep a woman from ordering RU486 from an out-of-state or out-of-the-country source?

Women need to know the truth that if they decide to purchase RU-486 from anyone other than a medical provider, e.g., the Internet or a foreign country, she does so at great risk to her own health as these sources could be unregulated and unsafe.

What does the law say about rape and incest?

These horrific situations have been exploited by the abortion industry as a way to justify the destruction of unborn children. In truth, less than 1.5 percent of all abortions are for these circumstances.

The victim of rape or incest deserves care, compassion, and medical attention and also deserves assistance to bring her perpetrator to justice instead of being coerced or pressured into an abortion.

Her trauma could be greatly compounded by the trauma of the taking of an innocent child’s life. All life should be protected regardless of how conception occurred.

Will doctors be prosecuted for treating miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies?

No, this is a fear tactic and grossly misrepresents the law. Elective abortions are illegal in the state of Tennessee.

A miscarriage or fetal demise is the tragic ending of a life in the womb; it is not an elective abortion.

How a doctor provides medical treatment for an ectopic pregnancy or the death of the child in the womb is not affected by this law.

As an affirmative defense instead of an exception, doctors merely explain away their actions as necessary to save the life of the mother because doctors are the ones with the expertise to prove such a thing.

This is more ideal than having the state, with no medical expertise, prove a negative (that the exception was not met) in the case of an exception as opposed to the affirmative defense.

What will happen to girls and women who have an unplanned pregnancy?

Now that Roe has been overturned, Tennesseans will be able to decide how best to assist the women of our state.

The Volunteer State will step up to the challenge. There are nearly 200 pregnancy resource and help centers in the state, including several operated by Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, and these centers will continue to provide care for pregnant women and their children while Tennessee Right to Life will work to pass legislation to improve care for pregnant women and the accessibility of adoption. Tennessee loves life, and that love is without limit.

What will Tennessee Right to Life’s purpose be now?

As one of the few states that will no longer allow the destruction of unborn children, the abortion industry will undoubtedly target Tennessee.

Tennessee Right to Life will work to elect pro-life legislators that will keep our current laws in place and pass measures to protect women and their children from out-of-state abortion marketing efforts.

We will continue to spread the truth about the humanity of the unborn child and the tragedy of abortion. It is our goal to not only make abortion illegal but to make abortion unthinkable.

It only takes one election cycle to undo all of the laws that Tennessee Right to Life and pro-life Tennesseans have worked so hard to enact.

These answers were provided by Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life, and Will Brewer, Tennessee Right to Life legal counsel and legislative liaison.

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