NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The bill Governor Bill Lee signed into law on May 10, 2019 became Tennessee law on Thursday.

At the time “The Human Life Protection Act” was signed, supporters were hopeful that then-President Donald Trump would help usher in a more conservative Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade. 

On June 24, 2022, that hope came true.

However, thousands of days after the legislation was signed, everyone isn’t clear on the details of the near-total ban on abortions in Tennessee.

When asked this week whether doctors who perform abortions to save the life of the mother are legally shielded from prosecution under the law, Gov. Lee said it “allow[s]” for those types of abortions.

“Our law is designed to allow for doctors to perform procedures in dangerous maternal health situations where the life of the mother is at stake and that is how that bill was constructed. It protects the life of the mother and it protects the life of the unborn,” he said.

Lawyers and law professors have told News 2 the law does not have an exception for abortions performed to save a mother’s life but instead offers a potential defense for doctors who perform abortions under those conditions.

“The unintended consequences of protecting the unborn is that we are putting lives at risk and we are also potentially criminalizing physicians that take care of those women,” said OB/GYN professor and clinician at the University of Tennessee Dr. Nikki Zite. 

Dr. Zite said Wednesday a lot of her patients were concerned about whether they would be able to get contraceptives once the law went into effect.

To that concern, Dr. Zite said the law’s definition of fertilization as the point a male sperm penetrates the female ovum protects most forms of contraception.

“Most of our modern contraception methods work by preventing fertilization, that is the goal. And most evidence we have suggests that their primary, and secondary, mechanisms of action are all to prevent fertilization. So, they all would stay within the intent and goals of these laws,” she explained.

However, she said a lot of her patients are concerned their ability to legally access contraceptives in Tennessee isn’t guaranteed.

“There is a lot of fear of that slippery slope,” Dr. Zite said.

The other point of confusion for critics of the law is how it will be enforced, especially in Nashville where the district attorney has said he won’t prosecute these cases and the police department has said they won’t act as “the abortion police.”

When asked about that, Gov. Lee said that enforcement will be figured out once those issues arise.

“I think the most important thing is we do need to protect those lives. The legal issues will be worked out in the process, but protecting those lives is what is most important about the law that we have on the books,” he said.

However, one thing that was clear to Planned Parenthood of Tennessee CEO Ashley Coffield on Wednesday is that they’ve exhausted their legal options from this law going into effect.

“We do not have a legal path in Tennessee to challenge the trigger law,” Coffield said solemnly.

This leaves doctors like Dr. Zite stuck adjusting to this new normal and still processing the challenges that will come up in the coming days.

“It fluctuates. All the stages of grief, right? I’m bargaining. Maybe they will call an emergency session and fix this. I’m angry at everybody. I’m sad,” she said.

The law also does not offer exceptions for pregnancies as a result of rape or incest.

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When asked for comment the state attorney general, the Davidson County district attorney, and the Metro Nashville Police Department all deferred to previous statements given about the law.