Tennessee Abortion Laws

  • Passage of Pro-Life Amendment to Tennessee Constitution

In 2014, Tennessee became one of only a few states to effectively propose and win a pro-life Amendment to their state Constitution.  After 14 years of work and millions of dollars contributed by pro-life Tennesseans, Amendment 1 passed 53% - 47% by Tennessee voters on November 4, 2014.  The amendment's victory was challenged in federal court by Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion entities but the Amendment prevailed in 2018 with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' unanimous decision upholding the vote.

Pro-Life Amendment added to the state Constitution on November 4, 2014:

"Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or the funding of an abortion.  The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

  • Human Life Protection Act

The Human Life Protection Act takes effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade in whole or part. As such it does not challenge the core holdings of Roe, Casey, or Hellerstedt. Nor does it threaten existing pro-life protections which are changing hearts and saving lives each day in Tennessee.


  • Prioritization of Title X Funds for Public Health Departments**

This legislation codified existing policy as established by the Haslam Administration (2011) and requires legislative action to reverse or change.  The law creates a tiered system of distributing Title X family planning funds with ethical public health care providers at the top and private non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood at the bottom.  It redirects funding without "discriminating" against specific providers who would be likely to sue to regain the funding.


  • Post-Viability Abortion Ban

No abortion may be performed after viability unless to "prevent the death of the pregnant woman".  A medical assessment is required at 20th week of pregnancy to determine if unborn child is viable.

(2017) TCA 39-15-211

  • Ban on Sale of Fetal Tissue

Strengthens reporting requirements by abortion facility operators, increase inspections of these facilities and ensures that the remains of unborn children cannot be bought or sold following an abortion in Tennessee.

(2016) Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 15, Part 2 and Title 68

  • Signed Informed Consent Regarding Disposition of Aborted Baby's Body

Clarifies that the consent required of a woman prior to an abortion specific to the disposition / disposal of her unborn child's body must be in writing.

(2016) Amends TCA Title 10, Chapter 7, Part 5; Title 39, Chapter 15, Part 2; Title 63, Chapter 6, Part 2; Title 68, Chapter 3 and Title 68, Chapter 30

  • Informed Consent for women and girls considering abortion*

Requires the physician performing the abortion to provide in person accurate information about the gestational age and development of the unborn child, possible risks of the procedure based on the woman's individual health history, and information regarding public and private assistance available to the woman and her family.

(2015) Amends TCA 37-10-303; TCA 39-15-202; TCA 63-6-241; TCA 63-9; TCA 68-11-223

  • 48 Hour Waiting Period*

Requires a 48 hour waiting period in order to reduce coerced abortions and to allow time to carefully consider the information and resources provided by informed consent provisions.

(2015) Amends TCA 37-10-303; TCA 39-15-202; TCA 63-6-241; TCA 63-9; TCA 68-11-223

  • Required Inspection and Licensure of Abortion Facilities*

Requires the inspection and licensure by the Tennessee Department of Health in order to hold abortion providers accountable.

(2015) TCA 68-11-223  (04/13/2017: Tennessee Attorney General cannot defend law based on the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt, Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman ordered an injunction against enforcing the law on April 14, 2017.)

  • Physicians performing abortions required to have admitting privileges*

A physician may not perform an abortion unless the physician has admitting privileges at a hospital that is located in the county in which the abortion is performed or in a county adjacent to the county in which the abortion is performed.

The physician who performs an abortion or a healthcare provider licensed under the supervision of the physician shall notify the patient of the location of the hospital at which the physician has privileges and where the patient may receive follow-up care by the physician if complications arise.

(2012) TCA 39-15-202 (04/13/2017: Tennessee Attorney General cannot defend law based on the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt, Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman ordered an injunction against enforcing the law on April 14, 2017.)

  • Ban on Telemed / webcam dispensing of RU 486

Practice banned in Tennessee effective January 2013.

(2011) TCA

  • RU 486 (Medical Abortion) Classified as an Abortifacient

All regulations on surgical abortion also apply to chemical (medical) abortions.

  • Unborn Victims of Violence Act

One of the nation's strongest in which an unborn child at any age of development may be considered a separate victim of assault or murder when such crimes are perpetrated against a pregnant woman (2011).

  • Ban on Abortion in Government Insurance / health plans

Abortion excluded from new state health exchanges established under Obama-care.

(2010)  HB 2681

  • Coercion is criminal in Tennessee

No person may compel, coerce, or exercise duress toward any other person in order to obtain or procure an abortion.  Class A misdemeanor.

 (2010) 39-15-201 (b)3

  • Non-Coercion signage required by all abortion providers

Signage making clear that no abortion may be coerced must be displayed in waiting areas and counseling rooms where abortions are performed.  This includes private physician offices, hospitals, clinics and any facility where an abortion may be done.  $2,500 per day fine against such facilities for each day sign is not displayed.  $1,000 per day against individual physicians performing abortions without display of signage.  39-15-202 (2010) 

  • Ban on use of Public Funds

Tennessee tax dollars are prohibited from being used for abortion unless necessary to preserve the life of the mother or in pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.


  • Partial-birth abortion ban (state version)

No person shall perform a partial birth abortion.

(1997)   TCA 39-15-209

  • Signed consent of one parent for minor daughter abortion

Any girl under the age of 18 must have the signed consent of one parent if she has never been married or freed by court order or otherwise freed from the care, custody and control of her parents. Broad judicial by-pass exists.

(1995)  TCA 37-10-301  

  • Physician-only requirement

Only a physician may perform an abortion in Tennessee, including RU 486 or other procedures involving medication whose sole purpose is to cause an abortion.

(1989, 1994)  TCA 53-10-104 (c )

  • Protective Conscience Clauses

Physicians and hospitals may not be forced against their will to participate in abortions.

(1989)  39-15-204, 205

Private institutions, physicians or agents or employees of private institution or physicians may not be forced to provide contraception, supplies, or information.

(1971)  68-34-104 (5)

  • Ban on Sell of Aborted Babies, Research requires knowledge and consent of the mother 

It is unlawful for any person, agency, corporation, partnership, or association to engage in medical experiments, research, or the taking of photographs, upon an aborted baby without the prior knowledge and consent of the mother.  Also, money or anything of of value cannot be offered or accepted for an aborted baby. 39-15-208 (1989)

  • Choose Life Specialty License Plate

Established a Choose Life specialty plate in Tennessee that benefits life-affirming agencies and efforts in our state.  Since winning a Federal Appeals Court challenge in 2005, the plate has consistently ranked among top 10 best-selling specialty plates in TN, raising more than 1 million dollars. (2003-2016).



Tennessee has established a preference for natural childbirth over abortion through its enactment of the Choose Life specialty plate.  (2003)

Tennessee’s state House unanimously commended the work of life-affirming pregnancy centers.   HR110 (2011)

*Currently challenged in U.S. District Court in Adams & Boyle, P.C., (Bristol Women's Center, The Women's Center (Nashville)), Wesley H. Adams, Jr., MD and Memphis Center for Reproductive Health d/b/a Choices vs. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General of Tennessee, John Dreyzehner, MD, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health and Michael D. Zanolli, MD, President of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners.  Chief Judge Kevin Sharp issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the regulation of abortion facilities requirement for Davidson and Sullivan county, allowing the existing facilities performing abortions to remain open as the case continues. Other laws challenged remain in effect.  On April 13, 2017, Tennessee Attorney General cannot defend the regulation of abortion facilities and the admitting privileges laws based on the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt, Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman ordered an injunction against enforcing these laws on April 14, 2017.

**Tennessee established an administrative process for awarding federal Title X family planning contracts in Davidson and Shelby Counties effectively defunding Planned Parenthood.  Since 1973, these contracts totaling $1.1 million were automatically awarded to Planned Parenthood in Memphis and Nashville. (2011)  Governor Haslam followed up on this legislation by ensuring that Planned Parenthood no longer received the funding.