NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives would make it a crime to help pregnant minors get abortion care, even if it includes taking them out of state.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Jason Zachary (R – Knoxville) and makes it a class C felony to help minors get abortion treatment. People would face a felony if they conceal “an act that would constitute a criminal abortion” from the parents or guardians of an unemancipated minor. They would also face a felony for helping facilitate abortion care out of state for a minor, or getting abortion-inducing drugs for a minor.
It would not matter if minors want abortion care, and the bill would not apply to parents or legal guardians of unemancipated minors.
On top of the felony charge, people who help minors get abortion care could also face civil litigation from the parents of a minor. However, the bill specifically excludes fathers from bringing lawsuits against people if the minor’s pregnancy resulted from rape or incest by the father.
“The Tennessee government not only wants to say what medical procedures are available to us, but now wants to police people trying to access legal care in other states. It’s reprehensible,” said a release from Planned Parenthood. “At Planned Parenthood we’re extremely proud of the navigation services and financial resources that we’ve provided to people of all ages since Tennessee banned abortion, and we don’t intend to stop.”
The bill, HB 1895, did not have a companion version in the Senate as of Jan. 23. It was introduced in the House the day before.
“Abortion is a safe, and time-sensitive health care procedure, and it remains legal in some nearby states,” said Ashley Coffield in the release, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. “Targeting trusted adults, family members, and helpers who assist minors in accessing abortion will have a chilling effect and is dangerous and irresponsible. If you know a minor who miscarries, you’re a potential suspect.”
The release also said the bill could be especially dangerous for minors living in abusive situations.
“Most minors involve a parent in their decision to get an abortion. But for young people living in abusive households, disclosing sexual activity or pregnancy can trigger physical or emotional abuse, including direct physical or sexual violence, or being thrown out of the home. This bill makes criminals out of trusted adults, including other family members, who can help in these circumstances,” the release said.
Among the variety of services Planned Parenthood provides, it also helps patients navigate abortion treatment options in states other than Tennessee. Planned Parenthood said in the release that it did not intend to stop providing services.