abortion trigger

Protestors opposing Tennessee's abortion "trigger law" as it was debated at the Tennessee Capitol in 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a draft opinion published by Politico Monday.

Tennessee is one of 13 states that have enacted a trigger law — abortion bans that go into effect immediately or soon after a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The state’s Human Life Protection Act, passed in 2019, would go into effect 30 days after a Roe v. Wade reversal. It would allow abortion in just one circumstance: when it’s necessary to prevent “substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function.” It would also make it felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, though pregnant people seeking abortions would be exempt from prosecution.

The Supreme Court’s reported draft opinion comes from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, resulting from Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. No state currently has a 15-week ban in effect, though several states, including Tennessee, have enacted so-called heartbeat bills seeking to ban abortion even earlier. The decision is not final until it is published, which will likely be in the next two months, according to Politico. The reported ruling would also reverse the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the 1973 opinion in Roe.

Effectively, abortion rights would become a state issue.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” the draft’s author, Justice Samuel Alito, wrote. “Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.”

Even if the trigger law does go into effect in Tennessee, there are other states that specifically protect abortion rights. The closest to Tennessee is currently Illinois. Conservative lawmakers in Missouri have sought to prevent patients from traveling to Illinois for procedures, and other anti-abortion states could follow suit. Republicans in Washington, D.C., have also been considering a nationwide abortion ban should the GOP take control of Congress and the presidency in the coming years.

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said in 2020 that he would not prosecute anyone who “decides to have a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy or any medical doctor who performs this procedure at the request of their patient,” and he reiterated that statement Monday. Funk is up for reelection this year, facing two challengers in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.