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The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) said Wednesday 150 missing children were recovered during a months-long collaborative operation.

TBI, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, and the U.S. Marshals Service announced the information during a news briefing, WKRN reported.

Planning for the effort, dubbed Operation Volunteer Strong, began in fall 2020, and launched on January 4, TBI said in a press release.

“After identifying 240 missing children statewide, TBI intelligence analysts compiled thorough information and potential leads on each, which designated law enforcement teams carefully pursued during two-week blitzes in each of Tennessee’s three grand regions,” the release stated.

TBI Dir. David Rausch: Our mission- “That guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer”-is more than a motto. It reminds us everyday of what really matters. In this operation, it was the innocence of children who may need help or love, a new start or just someone safe to talk to.

— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) March 3, 2021

According to Shelly Smitherman, TBI’s assistant special agent in charge, those found ranged from ages three to seventeen.

“In the Middle Tennessee region, which includes Nashville, the TBI reported 72 missing children were identified and 42 of them were recovered,” according to the WKRN, which added that officers identified one child as a potential human trafficking victim.

“We can’t give up. We need the public, the media, and all law enforcement to not give up,” Denny King, U.S. marshal for the Middle District of Tennessee, explained.

“If you see something, or know something, say something. We cannot give up and stop searching for our most vulnerable and those who cannot help themselves,” he continued.

Tyreece Miller, U.S. marshal for the Western District of Tennessee, said he hoped the operation changed the course of the children’s lives for the better.

“Our efforts should also serve notice to those who prey on society’s most vulnerable that these children are not forgotten. Investigations will continue and the next knock at the door could be for you,” he stated.

The majority of the children will receive services through the state’s Department of Children’s Services, which may include foster home placement, group homes, or additional specialized care, the TBI’s press release concluded.

Last month, Missouri law enforcement officials rescued eight human trafficking victims.

Watch TBI’s press conference:

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Tennessee legislature passes bill requiring cremation or burial after abortion

Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would require medical providers to bury or cremate fetal remains after abortions, sending the legislation to the governor's desk.

State senators cleared the measure in a 27-6 vote. The House passed the bill on Monday in a 69-22 vote.

In addition to the requirements for medical providers, the legislation says the pregnant woman can determine the method and location for disposing of the fetal remains.

The Associated Press reported that the bill has drawn criticism from Tennessee Democrats and reproductive rights advocates, who argue that the measure would stigmatize a legal procedure.

"This is one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I’ve heard this year,” state Rep. London Lamar (D) told the AP. “This is not a pro-life piece of legislation. What you are doing is further using your legislative powers to bring trauma on women who make that choice.” 

“To have additional trauma related to being required to have this type of service is just cruel,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Raumesh Akbari told the newswire. “I wish that instead of that, we would conform to what hospitals are already doing.”

Supporters of the bill argues it will protect human dignity.

“It’s not fetal tissue, it’s dismembered children,” said state Rep. Robin Smith (R).

The legislation now awaits action from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), a staunch abortion opponent who signed one of the strictest state abortion laws last year. It was later blocked after a legal challenge.

Lee has not indicated whether he'll sign the new legislation, according to the AP.

Tags Bill Lee Tenneessee Abortion

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