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Tennessee Abortion Laws

Last updated 1/2/2020

Every state has their own abortion laws that cover standard consent requirements, facility codes, and waiting periods. Along with these regulations, the Volunteer State also requires a fully licensed doctor to perform the procedure, and unemancipated minors must get prior consent from at least one parent.

Is Abortion Legal in Tennessee?

Yes, abortion is legal in Tennessee. States cannot outlaw abortion, though they do have the ability to set standards and limits.

In May 2019, the Tennessee legislature passed the Human Life Protection Act that would outlaw abortion (except for a few special, explicitly specified circumstances) in the state of Tennessee within 30 days should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade or should the U.S. constitution be modified to allow states to outlaw abortion. The Supreme Court is currently considering a legal challenge to Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. A decision is expected in June 2022.

Tennessee Abortion Laws: Chart

Tennessee’s abortion laws are highlighted in the chart below.

Code Section

39-15-201 to 209; 37-10-301 to 307

Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion

(1) Failure to meet standards for legal abortion including residency requirement; (2) attempted criminal abortion; (3) coerced or compelled abortion; (4) administering to pregnant woman medicine, drugs, or any substance, or using any instrument or other means with the intent to destroy the child; (5) Partial Birth abortion: no person shall knowingly perform a partial birth abortion except when necessary to save life of the mother if endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. "Attempting to procure miscarriage" is also a felony, subject to same exceptions for legal abortions.

Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion

  • First trimester: with woman's consent upon advice of her M.D.
  • After first trimester and before viability: With same, but in a hospital. 
  • After viability: Only if necessary to preserve life or health of mother.

Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

  • Criminal abortion: Class C felony.
  • Attempting to procure a miscarriage: Class E felony.
  • M.D.'s failure to use due care to preserve life of baby born alive or violation of 48-hour waiting period: Class E felony
  • Abortion on non-Tenn. resident: Class C felony
  • Coercion to obtain abortion: Class A misdemeanor
  • M.D.'s abortion on minor violating consent statute: Class A misdemeanor.

Consent Requirements

At least one parent must consent to abortion to be performed on minor; no parental consent necessary if emergency; minor may petition court for waiver.

Residency Requirements for Patients

Mother must produce to M.D. evidence she is bona fide resident prior to procedure except in medical emergency (but M.D. must still give information to mother)

Physician Licensing Requirements

  • First trimester: Licensed M.D. upon his medical advice and woman's consent
  • After first trimester to viability: Licensed M.D.
  • After viability: Only to preserve life of mother

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Tennessee Abortion Laws: Related Resources

Abortion can have legal and emotional ramifications that can be especially difficult to deal with. For more information and resources on this topic, you can visit FindLaw’s sections on abortion, birth control, and health care law.

Have a Tennessee Attorney Help You With Your Abortion-Related Concerns

Every woman has the right to a safe and legal abortion in the United States, despite the cloud of uncertainty that sometimes accompanies questions about accessing the procedure. It often helps to have an ally who knows the law advocating on your behalf. You can consult with a family law attorney in Tennessee if you want to know your rights and responsibilities or if you would like legal advice regarding an abortion or health care matter.

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