Adults could face civil and criminal penalties in Tennessee for helping minors get abortions under a new “abortion trafficking” law in the state.

Adults could face consequences for transporting a minor to get an abortion even if it is in another state where abortion is legal. The law makes an exception for parents helping their minor children.

Tennessee already has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, prohibiting abortions at nearly all stages of pregnancy, with very limited exceptions. Tennessee ceased nearly all abortion services when a trigger ban went into effect in August 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The state is one of 14 to cease nearly all abortion services.

The new law, signed into effect Tuesday, comes amid an ongoing separate legal challenge filed by seven women and two doctors against the state over its abortion bans. The lawsuit is currently before a three-judge panel that will decide whether the suit can continue.

The panel heard arguments last month but has not yet issued a decision on whether it will allow the suit to continue.

PHOTO: Buttons were available for attendees during the Teens 4 Reproductive Rights meeting at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, in Franklin, Tenn., Aug. 13, 2022.

Buttons were available for attendees during the Teens 4 Reproductive Rights meeting at The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, in Franklin, Tenn., Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo by William DeShazer for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

William DeShazer for The Washington Post via Getty Images

What’s in the new law?

The bill criminalizes “abortion trafficking of a minor” if an adult recruits, harbors or transports a pregnant minor within the state to conceal them obtaining an illegal abortion without the knowledge of their parents; helping the minor obtain an abortion, regardless of where; or obtaining the abortion pill for the minor for the purpose of terminating their pregnancy.

Violators could face criminal and civil penalties. The crime is considered a Class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

A person charged under this law cannot argue in court that the pregnant minor consented to getting an abortion, according to the text.

PHOTO: Activists gather near the Tennessee State Capital building in Nashville, May 14,2022, as part of a nation wide protest for reproductive rights after a leak from the Supreme Court that suggest Roe v Wade will be overturned.

Activists gather near the Tennessee State Capital building in Nashville, May 14,2022, as part of a nation wide protest for reproductive rights after a leak from the Supreme Court that suggest Roe v Wade will be overturned.

Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Anyone who violates the law can also be held liable in a civil action for the “wrongful death of an unborn child that was aborted,” according to the law.

The civil suit can be brought by the biological parents of the unborn child — unless the pregnancy resulted from rape — or the parent or legal guardian of the minor whose pregnancy was aborted. A plaintiff can recover economic damages, noneconomic damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorneys fees and court costs.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law on Tuesday, but it doesn’t go into effect until July 1.

More legal challenges are likely to ensure from the “abortion trafficking” bill, too.



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