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Tennessee Abortion Laws

Summary

Abortion is illegal in Tennessee unless necessary to save the life of the mother.

Introduction

Every state has their own abortion laws that cover standard consent requirements, facility codes, and waiting periods. Along with these regulations, Tennessee 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?

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which returned to the states the power to regulate, even prohibit, abortion. Tennessee has a "trigger ban" that prohibits all abortions, except those necessary to save the mother’s life or to prevent irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. That law will be effective in mid-August, 2022.

Until the trigger ban becomes effective, Tennessee's fetal heartbeat law (which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around five to six weeks) is in place. This area of law is highly fluid. 

Tennessee Abortion Laws: Chart

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

Code Section

39-15-216

Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion

 A person shall not perform or induce, or attempt to perform or induce, an abortion upon a pregnant woman whose unborn child has a fetal heartbeat; exception for medical emergency

Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

Criminal abortion: Class C felony

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.

Physician Licensing Requirements

  • Licensed M.D. upon his medical advice and woman's consent

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

Abortion is a difficult issue, and many people have 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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