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Tennessee

Restrictions on Young Women's Access to Abortion

Tennessee law restricts young women's access to abortion.

Is the law enforceable?  Yes.  A federal court reversed a lower court's grant of a preliminary injunction. Memphis Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. Sundquist, 175 F.3d 456 (6th Cir. 1999).

Who is considered a minor?  A young woman under the age of 18 who has never been married or freed by court order or otherwise from the care, custody, and control of her parents.

What is required - parental consent or parental notice?  Consent

Who must provide consent?  One parent.

Are there other trusted adults who may provide consent instead?  No.

What is the process for obtaining consent?  A young woman may not obtain an abortion unless the physician secures the signed written consent of one parent.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of rape or incest?  Yes, but only if a criminal charge of incest is pending against a parent; then the signed written consent of that parent is not required.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman is a victim of child abuse?  No.

May the parental mandate be waived if a young woman's health is threatened?  Yes, but only if the physician determines that "a medical emergency exists that so complicates the pregnancy as to require an immediate abortion."

May the parental mandate be waived under any other circumstances?  Yes, the young woman may try to obtain permission from a judge.

If a young woman must obtain permission from a judge, what is the process?  She must secure a court order stating either that she is mature and well informed enough to make her own decision or that an abortion is in her best interests.

Are there other significant requirements under the law?  No.

Has a court considered the constitutionality of this law?  Yes.  An appellate court held that it was unlikely that the plaintiff would prevail on its claim that provisions of the law were unconstitutional, thus reversing a lower court's grant of a preliminary injunction.  Memphis Planned Parenthood, Inc. v. Sundquist, 175 F.3d 456 (6th Cir. 1999).

Other information about the law:  The Tennessee attorney general has issued an opinion stating that this minors' access law applies to the use of mifepristone because Tennessee law defines abortion as including the use of a drug to terminate a pregnancy.  Tenn. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 01-030 (Mar. 7, 2001).

Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 37-10-301, -302, -305, -307 (Enacted 1988), -303 (Enacted 1988; Last Amended 2006), -304 (Enacted 1988; Last Amended 1989), -306 (Enacted 1988; Last Amended 1989).

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