Advocates warn suggested abortion carveout could prove traumatic for assault victims

Jessica Smith
Posted at 4:30 PM, Feb 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-01 19:12:54-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — While abortion is now illegal in Tennessee, Republicans have filed a new bill that would provide rape and incest victims with the ability to have one. However, sexual assault advocates warn that the bill's specifications could traumatize victims further.

The new bill — HB1440 and SB0857 — would allow for an abortion to happen if a pregnancy happened as a result of rape or incest at a certain gestational age. The doctor performing the care would have to make sure the patient reported to law enforcement and had a forensic examination performed. A patient could also report to a rape crisis center but the center would have to report to law enforcement.

Children — 12 years and younger who become pregnant — could have an abortion at 10 weeks. Those who are 13 years and older could have an abortion only at eight weeks. If law enforcement determines a pregnant person received an abortion but a crime didn't occur, that individual could be subject to a Class C felony and have a three-year minimum sentence. This bill is unlike those that Democrats have filed, which don't list any of these specifications.

Lorraine McGuire said these types of stipulations weren't trauma-informed for patients, and that lawmakers didn't completely understand what that would mean for patients if the law were passed. She is the spokesperson for the Sexual Assault Center, who is able to provide a SAFE clinic center for examinations and therapy for those who endure assault.

"Part of the process is trying to gain autonomy back," McGuire said. "We want them to have the option to have an abortion if they want because that’s autonomy."

McGuire was also concerned about the definition of a false accusation, which wasn't clear when she talked to lawmakers.

"It’s done so rarely, so to have that be a main part of the bill written in it makes us really uncomfortable," McGuire said.