There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding abortion laws and women’s health that you have probably heard from friends and family. You may have seen the posts circulating around Facebook that say “my miscarriage will be criminalized,” or “women will die from ectopic pregnancies.” Thankfully for women’s health, these statements are not true. I wrote this blog post so you can be informed and hopefully prepared for conversations on these topics.
Tennessee law now criminalizes elective, induced abortion, or the intentional “choice” to take the life of a child for a reason other than to preserve the life or physical health of the mother. Miscarriage (a.k.a. “spontaneous abortion”) and ectopic pregnancies will still be treated as usual. Even if some of these procedures are medically termed “abortions,” they are still legal in Tennessee and in all other “trigger law” states.
What Does the Tennessee “Trigger Law” Say?
To find out which procedures are outlawed in our state, I compiled information below from the Human Life Protection Act (a.k.a. trigger law”) itself that was signed by Governor Bill Lee in 2019. Here is a link to it.
Extent of the Law: The law says that, “A person who performs or attempts to perform an abortion commits the offense of criminal abortion. Criminal abortion is a Class C Felony.” It defines an “unborn child” as “an individual living member of the species, homo sapiens, throughout the entire embryonic and fetal stages of the unborn child from fertilization until birth.” This means that all elective abortion is completely outlawed, life is protected from conception onward, and the child in the womb has personhood status.
Definition of Illegal Abortion: It also says, “‘Abortion’ means the use of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device with the intent to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with intent other than to increase the probability of live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.” First of all, this includes providing the abortion pill as an illegal act. This also means if the baby has already died, then removing the baby is still legal. Inducing labor so a baby can be born earlier in order to boost chances of survival, e.g. in cases of preeclampsia, is also still legal.
Protection of the Mother: The law goes on to say that in the following cases abortion is still legal, if “the physician determined…that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman. No abortion shall be deemed authorized… if performed on the basis of a claim or a diagnosis that the woman will engage in conduct that would result in her death or substantial impairment of a major bodily function or for any reason relating to her mental health.” Basically, if a woman is facing an ectopic pregnancy or other pregnancy-related issues that could threaten her life or physical health, removing the baby is still legal. It is not legal if she threatens suicide or harm to herself if “forced” to carry to term (in this case, she would need to be under the care of a mental health provider.)
Protecting the Unborn Child as Much as Possible: The law also states that the physician, in performing an “abortion” when a mother’s life and health are at risk, is to provide “the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive, unless…termination of the pregnancy in that manner would pose a greater risk of the death of the pregnant woman or substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Basically, the physician should try his/her best to save the life of the child, but if that is not possible without majorly injuring or ending the life of the woman, then ending the life of the child is legal under these circumstances.
Protection of the Physician: Women also do not need to worry that physicians will refuse to provide medical care for fear of accidentally committing an abortion: “Medical treatment provided to the pregnant woman by a licensed physician which results in the accidental death of or unintentional injury to or death of the unborn child shall not be a violation of this section.”
Who will be Prosecuted: And as always, the law states a woman who obtains an abortion will not be subject “to criminal conviction or penalty,” only the person performing the abortion.
For more information on miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy exemptions in other states, this is a great resource.
Trust in God
As a woman of child-bearing age – who has friends and family members of child-bearing age also – women’s health is an important topic for me. I too would be concerned and upset if I thought women’s lives were put in unnecessary danger. Preborn children are not more important than their mothers, they are equally important and now have equal protection under state law. Thankfully God has blessed our state with lawmakers who took women’s health into consideration and there is no reason to fear for our lives.
Many women we minister to at Birth Choice are afraid, hurt, and confused. We are here to share truth not only about the law, but about God’s love and care for us. We do not have to be afraid, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV.
Tiffany Dawson loves her job as Director of Development at Birth Choice. Basically, she is the fundraiser and plans the events and manages social media. Tiffany graduated from Union University in 2018 with a B.A. in Media Communications and was a member of Life 139, Union’s student pro-life organization. She has always had a heart for the pro-life cause but developed an interest in pregnancy help ministry in college as a marketing and communications intern at Care Net’s headquarters in Virginia.