Tennessee governor signs ‘abortion trafficking’ bill for minors into law

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday signed a bill into law that criminalizes “abortion trafficking of a minor,” the latest GOP-led state to reduce access to abortion following the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

The new law is aimed at preventing assistance to minors seeking to obtain an abortion. It does not apply to the parents or legal guardian of the minor.

Under the measure, a person who helps a minor obtain an abortion, or abortion-inducing drugs, without consent from the minor’s parent, could be sued for money damages by the minor, by the minor’s parents, or by the biological father.

Tennessee joins a number of Republican-led states that have restrictions on abortion either taking effect or enacted for the first time following the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 that overturned the federal right to an abortion. While abortion is already banned in Tennessee – with no exceptions for rape or incest – the new law creates a new layer of punishment for those seeking to help minors obtain an abortion.

The law, which takes effect July 1, applies regardless of whether the pregnant minor “consented to the actions that led to the offense,” according to the law, which is a Class A misdemeanor offense and carries a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in prison. Before the measure was signed into law, Bryan Davidson, policy director at the ACLU of Tennessee, said it “harms young people’s ability to access the support of those they trust when they need it most and is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment right to free speech and expression.”

“It is absurd and cruel to force a pregnant young person to navigate laws and systems that are designed to deprive them of their own bodily autonomy, while simultaneously removing the ability for trusted adults to provide guidance and support when they need it most,” Davidson wrote in a letter to Lee last month.

CNN has reached out to Lee’s office for comment.

The new law is similar to an Idaho “abortion trafficking” measure that GOP Gov. Brad Little signed last year. That law made it illegal for adults in the state to assist a minor with obtaining an abortion without parental consent, though it was later blocked by a judge over constitutionality concerns.

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