Tennessee Moves Forward with Bill Prohibiting Assistance in Minors’ Abortions

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Tennessee state legislators took action on Tuesday to advance a bill that aims to prohibit individuals from facilitating minors’ access to abortion without parental consent. The bill refers to this act as “abortion trafficking”.

A proposed bill has advanced out of a state house subcommittee after a hearing. If someone were to illegally recruit, harbor, or transport a pregnant unemancipated minor for an abortion, they could potentially face three to 15 years in prison.

Despite Tennessee’s existing ban on almost all abortions, similar to the laws in over a dozen states in the southern and midwestern United States, there is ongoing frustration among those who oppose abortion that individuals are still able to access the procedure following the US supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022. Certain individuals have chosen to travel to different states to undergo the procedure, while supporters of abortion rights are distributing abortion pills through unofficial channels to enable people to “self-manage” abortions in the comfort of their own homes.

In the early stages of pregnancy, self-abortion via medication is generally regarded as safe by medical professionals.

During the Tuesday hearing, Jason Zachary, a Republican state representative and the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the significance of the bill in protecting “parental rights.”

“In Tennessee, it is necessary to have parental permission before taking a child under 18 to an emergency room or any medical facility for treatment,” Zachary explained.

“This legislation establishes that adults are prohibited from taking non-related minors for any abortion-related procedure without parental consent.”

During another part of the hearing, Zachary made his stance on abortion clear: “I have reservations about abortion.” End of story. That’s the end of the story. He later stated: “My intention was to prioritize the protection of every life, including unborn children.”

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Bill Proposes Fetal Personhood, Posing Challenges to Existing US Law Framework

The bill includes provisions that would enable individuals to pursue legal action for “wrongful death” following an abortion. This language implies the potential recognition of a fetus as a legal entity. Recognizing the legal personhood of fetuses has been a longstanding objective of those opposed to abortion. This could have significant ramifications for a wide range of US laws, potentially creating a conflict between the rights of pregnant women and the rights of the fetuses they are carrying.

Under the proposed legislation, individuals convicted of rape would be barred from filing wrongful death lawsuits. However, during the Tuesday hearing, which lasted nearly an hour, state lawmakers debated over other complications related to rape.

“What is the situation if the sole parent or guardian is the perpetrator of the young lady who is carrying the child?” Democratic state representative John Ray Clemmons inquired of Zachary.

Zachary mentioned that the minor has the option to go to court and obtain a court order to nullify the guardianship rights.

“So, if a child or an unemancipated minor needed to access healthcare, but their only parent or guardian happened to be their rapist, would that child have to go through the court system to request assistance?” “Clemmons asked,” the voice inquired.

There has been a growing concern surrounding the issue of “abortion trafficking” since the US supreme court overturned Roe. Last year, Idaho passed a bill that prohibited individuals from transporting minors across state lines for abortion without parental consent. Lawmakers in the state referred to this action as “abortion trafficking.” Following that, a judge temporarily suspended the law.

“Any woman who has faced the difficult decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy has undoubtedly had an internal dialogue about the value of life,” shared Kacey Cardin, a Tennessee resident who has experience as an abortion doula and is currently contemplating starting a family in the state.

It is concerning to hear lawmakers discussing the sanctity of all life. However, there is a noticeable lack of consideration for the sanctity of a woman’s life and the importance of her autonomy in making decisions about her own future.

Cardin, who is now in her 40s, shared with the Guardian that she experienced a traumatic incident at the age of 16, which resulted in her becoming pregnant and ultimately choosing to have an abortion. She views herself as fortunate, as her parents provided support and were able to assist her.

“It’s really difficult for many people to afford the procedure, especially considering the number of girls who are already unable to do so. On top of that, they have to take time off to find a trustworthy person who will keep their confidence,” Cardin expressed.

It’s heartbreaking to consider the countless instances where young girls suffer from sexual abuse at the hands of their own family members. Finding the necessary support to cope with such a traumatic situation can be incredibly challenging, especially when the very people who should be protecting you are the ones causing harm. That is a widely underestimated fact.

 

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