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No, it's not illegal to get an abortion in Mid-South states, but could be if 'trigger laws' take effect

In recent years, Mid-South lawmakers passed laws that would largely prohibit abortions and add criminal penalties if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Over the next few weeks, we expect to learn whether Roe vs. Wade will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It comes after a Supreme Court draft was leaked last week, indicating a majority of justices plan to overturn the 1973 law.

That's leading many Mid-Southerners to wonder what that would mean in this region.

So, in our exclusive VERIFY, we're clearing up any confusion since each Mid-South state has differences.

THE QUESTION

Is it currently illegal to get or perform an abortion in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi?

SOURCES

  • State law in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi
  •  University of Tennessee law professor Ben Barton

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, it's not illegal to get or perform an abortion in those states.

WHAT WE FOUND

"Still legal, the opinion that leaked is a draft opinion, so, as of today, nothing has changed," Barton said.

But that could change if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

In recent years. ahead of the possible overturning of the law, lawmakers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee all passed trigger laws. A trigger law would effectively prohibit abortions and add on criminal penalties almost immediately if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand on the pro-life side which has been held back all of these years," Barton added.

Let's break down what's in each state's trigger law.

In Arkansas, it would take effect as soon as the state attorney general certifies the law. If it takes effect, anyone convicted of performing or attempting to perform an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison or up to a $100,000 fine. The only abortion exception would be to save the life of a woman in an emergency. 

In Mississippi, the law would also take effect by the state's attorney general certification. Someone convicted under the law, if it takes effect, would serve between one and 10 years in prison. The only abortion exceptions would be if a rape is reported to law enforcement or to save the life of a woman.

In Tennessee, its trigger law would take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court ruling. Those convicted in violation or performing an abortion would face a Class C felony. The only abortion exception would be to protect the life of a woman. 

"Each one of them are essentially a felony for performing an abortion, different levels of punishment but all of them are not kidding around, they are a felony for the providers, none of them have criminalized the mother yet although that has been mentioned in other states," Barton said.

Currently, lawmakers in 13 states passed 'trigger laws' tied to abortion and possible changes to federal law.