Tennessee Abortion Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Every state has their own abortion laws that cover standard consent requirements, facility codes, and waiting periods. Along with these regulations, the Volunteer State also requires a fully licensed doctor to perform the procedure, and unemancipated minors must get prior consent from at least one parent.

Supreme Court Overrules Certain Abortion Restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court overruled Texas abortion regulations (Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedtrequiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges and facilities that meet the strict standards of surgical centers. While it's too early to say for sure, the June 27, 2016 Supreme Court ruling may overrule similar restrictions in Tennessee as well.

Tennessee Statutes

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

Code Section

39-15-201 to 209; 37-10-301 to 307

Statutory Definition of Illegal Abortion

(1) Failure to meet standards for legal abortion including residency requirement; (2) attempted criminal abortion; (3) coerced or compelled abortion; (4) administering to pregnant woman medicine, drug, or any substance, or using any instrument or other means with the intent to destroy the child; (5) Partial Birth abortion: no person shall knowingly perform a partial birth abortion except when necessary to save life of the mother if endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury. "Attempting to procure miscarriage" is also a felony, subject to same exceptions for legal abortions.

Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion

First trimester: with woman's consent upon advice of her M.D. After first trimester and before viability: with same, but in a hospital. After viability, only if necessary to preserve life or health of mother.

Penalty for Unlawful Abortion

Criminal abortion: Class C felony. Attempting to procure a miscarriage: Class E felony. M.D.'s failure to use due care to preserve life of baby born alive or violation of 48-hour waiting period: Class E felony; abortion on non-Tenn. resident: Class C felony; coercion to obtain abortion: Class A misdemeanor; M.D.'s abortion on minor violating consent statute: Class A misdemeanor.

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.

Residency Requirements for Patients

Mother must produce to M.D. evidence she is bona fide resident prior to procedure except in medical emergency, (but M.D. must still give information to mother)

Physician Licensing Requirements

First trimester, licensed M.D. upon his medical advice and woman's consent; after first trimester to viability, licensed M.D.; after viability, only to preserve life of mother

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

Every woman has the right to a safe and legal abortion in the United States, despite the cloud of uncertainty that sometimes accompanies 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.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.