Trigger law bans almost all abortions in Tennessee


S.B NO. 1257

Senate Bill 1257 bans most abortions in Tennessee and is put in place on Aug. 25, 2022.

Hana Barber, Reporter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – On Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, the trigger law for a complete abortion ban went into effect in Tennessee, prohibiting abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or mental health. This trigger law was set to be enacted 30 days after any Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking federal protections for abortion rights. 

Following the Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, this trigger law, called the Human Life Protection Act, made providing abortions a Class C felony, meaning that possible sentences can range from three to 15 years in prison with fines reaching $10,000. Other examples of Class C felonies are robbery, aggravated assault and murder. 

The law does not criminalize pregnant people who seek abortion care, but it does criminalize anyone aiding those people by attempting or performing an abortion. The law states that “pregnant [people] upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted” will not receive a criminal conviction or penalty.

The only legal abortions under this law are those “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant [person]” or to “prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant person, which are listed under the “Affirmative Defense” clause of Tennessee’s Human Life Protection Act. A licensed physician is required to determine if an abortion is imperative to prevent death or irreversible injury for the pregnant person. 

If possible, the doctor must make the best attempt to save the fetus, unless doing so further endangers the life or could lead to serious injury of the pregnant person. However, a doctor can only present this clause in defense of completing an abortion after facing criminal felony charges.