Judicial Bypass Wiki

Tennessee’s 6 week ban is in effect. This means doctors in the state cannot provide abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy.

No matter their age, every person in Tennessee has the legal right to get an abortion. But the state restricts abortions in some ways.

According to Tennessee abortion laws, every person who wants or needs to have an abortion must:

  • get counseling in person at a clinic;
  • have an ultrasound (an ultrasound is a test they will do at the abortion clinic to confirm that you are pregnant and figure out how many weeks pregnant you are) before the abortion; and
  • wait 48 hours after getting counseling before they can have the abortion.

All abortions in Tennessee must be performed before 6 weeks of pregnancy, unless the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Abortion laws in Tennessee make people under age 18 get written permission from a parent or guardian (a legal guardian has a court order stating that they have the legal authority and duty to care for a minor. This is different from a foster parent) before getting an abortion.

If you feel safe and want to involve a parent in your decision to have an abortion in Tennessee, one option is to talk to them about whether they will give you permission to get an abortion. Tennessee abortion laws say you need consent from only one parent or guardian.

If you cannot or do not want to tell your parent or guardian, or if they will not consent, you can go to court and ask a judge to allow you to get an abortion. This is called judicial bypass.

If you are married or an emancipated minor in Tennessee (an emancipated minor went through a legal process and has court order stating that they are freed from their parents and are legally an adult), you can get an abortion in Tennessee without consent from a parent or a judicial bypass.

According to Tennessee abortion laws, only your parent or legal guardian (a legal guardian has a court order stating that they have the legal authority and duty to care for a minor. This is different from a foster parent) can consent to you having an abortion. If you are in foster care, even if your foster parent supports your decision, they cannot give consent for you to have an abortion. This means that you will either need to ask your legal parent for their consent, or you can ask your foster parent to help you get a judicial bypass in Tennessee.

If your parent or guardian gives you permission, they must sign a form provided by the abortion clinic saying that they give you permission to have an abortion.

Tennessee state abortion laws stipulate that your parent or guardian must also bring official documents that show that they are actually your parent or guardian. Your parent should bring a copy of your birth certificate. Your guardian should have a court order (a document given to your guardian from a court that gives them official legal guardianship over you) to prove that they are your legal guardian. You and your parent or guardian should also bring government-issued identification—a passport, state-issued driver’s license, or state-issued ID card.

Not everyone can tell their parent about their decision to have an abortion. If you cannot or choose not to talk to your parent, there is another option called a judicial bypass. A judicial bypass means asking a judge to allow you to get an abortion without telling your parent.

This is a legal process that a lawyer can help you with. You do not need a lawyer, but you can have a lawyer for free if you want one. You can get connected with a lawyer in West Tennessee through CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health (901-274-3550), contact the Repro Legal Helpline at reprolegalhelpline.org to get connected to an attorney in Middle Tennessee by calling, or ask the court clerk (a court clerk is a person who works at the court. They help with filing paperwork, scheduling, and communicating information to the judge) for a lawyer if you are filing a (petition) (a petition is a form you fill in with information that tells the court what you are asking for) on your own.

Your lawyer’s job is to represent you in court. That means they are there to help you ask for what you want. Even if the lawyer was given to you by the court, it is your lawyer’s job to help you ask the court for what you want.

  1. Tennessee is one of the states that has a dedicated group of advocates working to help young people who need a judicial bypass.

You can visit the website for CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health here. CHOICES runs a hotline (901-274-3550) to help young people through the Tennessee judicial bypass process. For the Middle Tennessee region, contact the Repro Legal Helpline at reprolegalhelpline.org to get connected with a lawyer to assist with the judicial bypass process.

CHOICES provides this free service to connect you with a lawyer who will represent you in your Tennessee judicial bypass case for free. Your lawyer will take care of the steps in the judicial bypass process, including filing the petition (a petition is a form you fill in with information that tells the court what you are asking for), scheduling a hearing (a hearing is a meeting with a judge) with a judge, and representing you at the hearing.

  1. You also have the option to start the judicial bypass process on your own. You should be aware that Tennessee does not make several important forms available online. For that reason, it is best to contact CHOICES or a clinic to ask for help.

If you already know which clinic you would like to go to, start by contacting them to make an appointment for an ultrasound. You have to do this before you can have an abortion in Tennessee.

If you do not know which clinic you want to go to, you can find a list of abortion clinics in Tennessee here. You can also visit the Planned Parenthood website to find a clinic near you by clicking here. You also can go to a clinic outside of the state you live in.

You do not need permission from a parent to get an ultrasound (an ultrasound is a test they will do at the abortion clinic to confirm that you are pregnant and figure out how many weeks pregnant you are). When you call the clinic, tell them that you are a minor and need help with a judicial bypass in Tennessee. Clinics can also tell you more about the process and answer your questions.

  1. If you choose to do the judicial bypass process by yourself, you will need to fill out a petition. After you fill out the petition, you turn it in to the court clerk (a clerk is someone who works for the court, they are the ones that usually accept forms and schedule meetings with the judge) responsible for juvenile cases in any juvenile court. To find courts in your area, you can look here.

Once you turn in your petition, Tennessee abortion law says the judge has 48 hours (2 days) to schedule a hearing and make a decision. The court can take longer than this if you ask for more time.

It is important to talk to your lawyer before the hearing because they will have a lot of useful information about abortion laws in Tennessee and advice for you about talking to the judge.

If the judge does not make a decision within 2 days, your petition is considered denied, according to Tennessee state abortion laws. This means that even though the court has not done anything, you do not have permission to get an abortion. If this happens, you can immediately appeal (an appeal is what happens when you do not agree with the judge’s decision and want to try and challenge that decision in court) the decision. If you have a lawyer, they will be able to help you with an appeal. If you do not have a lawyer, you can contact advocates at CHOICES (901-274-3550) to help you find a lawyer. Go to the dropdown tab for “What can I do if the judge says I cannot get an abortion without telling my parent?” for more information.

At the hearing (a hearing is a meeting with a judge), the judge will ask you questions. Since every judge is different, we cannot know exactly what a judge will ask you.

According to Tennessee abortion laws, judges have wide latitude in the questions they can ask. Judges can ask your age, whether you have had a job, if you have lived away from your parents, if you have traveled by yourself, if you have your own money and know what a budget is, and whether you have made other big decisions in your life. The judge might also ask what has happened since you found out you were pregnant, what you think will happen if you don’t have an abortion, and what you did to decide you wanted or needed an abortion. The judge might ask you why you want or need an abortion.

You can find a list of questions that a judge might ask here. A judge might also ask questions that are not listed here, but it is a good idea to start thinking about what your answers are to these questions so you are ready if the judge asks. Your lawyer can help you with this.

After the hearing, the judge makes a decision about whether you can have an abortion without telling your parent. If you do not go to court to talk to the judge at the time you are scheduled to be there, the judge could automatically decide that you cannot get an abortion without getting consent from your parent.

If you think you cannot make it to the hearing, but still want the judicial bypass in Tennessee, you can ask for a different time to talk to the judge. If you have a lawyer, ask your lawyer about changing the time. If you don’t have a lawyer, call the court and tell them you have a time to talk to the judge but need a different time (the person you speak to at the court might call this a continuance).

After the hearing (a hearing is a meeting with a judge), the judge decides whether they think you are mature and well-informed (the judge thinks you can make the decision to get an abortion without talking to your parent first) enough to make this decision on your own, or if it’s in your best interest (the judge thinks it would be better for you not to talk to your parents) to have an abortion.

The judge usually makes a decision right away. But if they do not, the judge has 48 hours (2 days) to give you a decision. The court can take longer than this if you ask for more time.

If the judge makes a decision and agrees that you can get an abortion in Tennessee, you will get an order from the court (an official paper that you give to the clinic to show them that you have a judicial bypass).

Having an order from the court means you can get an abortion in a clinic in Tennessee without involving your parent. You will need to take the document with you to the clinic to show that you have permission from the court to get an abortion. To protect your privacy, you can ask court/attorney to send a copy of the court order directly to the clinic for you. 

No. Tennessee state laws on abortion stipulate that judicial bypass is confidential, which means that no one outside of the court will be told about it. When you send in your application to get a judicial bypass, your parent or guardian will not be told about the hearing (a hearing is a meeting with the judge).

No, if you are granted a judicial bypass in Tennessee that means you can get an abortion if you want. It does not mean you are required to and you can always change your mind. The court order (official paper to give to the clinic to show them that you have a judicial bypass) just means you can make the decision about whether you want or need an abortion without involving your parent/guardian.

According to Tennessee abortion laws, if the judge says you cannot get an abortion without your parent’s permission or if the judge does not make a decision on your case within 2 days, you can appeal (an appeal is what happens when you do not agree with the judge’s decision and want to try and challenge that decision in court) the decision.

So even if the judge tells you no, abortion laws in Tennessee say that you can ask another court with different judges to make a different decision.

If you had a lawyer for the hearing (a hearing is a meeting with a judge), they can talk to you about the appeal and help you understand what you need to do next. If you did not have a lawyer for the hearing, you will need to ask the court to give you a lawyer for the appeal.

The form you need to fill out to appeal is available here. You must fill out the form within 24 hours of getting a decision from the court. If you are appealing because the court did not make a decision in your case within 2 days, there is no time limit for filling out the appeal form. However, you should still fill out the form as soon as possible.

You do not have to pay any money to get a judicial bypass in Tennessee. You may be able to help paying for your abortion by talking to the abortion clinic you will be going to about abortion funds. These are abortion funds in Tennessee that may be able to help:

Access Reproductive Care – Southeast (available for all Tennessee residents)

(855) 227-2475

https://www.arc-southeast.org/funding

 

CHOICES Patient Assistance Fund (available for patients at CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health)

901-274-3550

Home

 

Mountain Access Brigade (available for all Tennessee residents)

1-855-888-6228

 

Abortion Care Tennessee (ACT) (available for all Tennessee residents)

You can find a map of abortion clinics in Tennessee here. You can also find a list of Planned Parenthood locations here.

Bristol Regional Women’s Center

2901 W State St.

Bristol, TN 37620

 

Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health

1547 Clinch Ave.

Knoxville, TN 37916

 

Planned Parenthood – Knoxville Health Center

710 N Cherry St.

Knoxville, TN 37914

 

CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health

1203 Poplar Ave.

Memphis, TN 38104

 

Planned Parenthood – Memphis Health Center

2430 Poplar Ave., Suite 100

Memphis, TN 38112

 

Carafem Health Center

5002 Crossings Cir., Suite 260

Mt. Juliet, TN 37122

 

Planned Parenthood – Nashville Health Center

412 Dr. DB Todd Jr. Blvd

Nashville, TN 37203

 

Some clinics may have limited service or hours

You can also use these directories to find an abortion clinic near you:

Planned Parenthood: Directory Here (make sure you select abortion in the services drop down menu) 

National Abortion Federation: Directory Here 

Abortion Care Network: Directory Here 

I Need An Abortion: Directory Here

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