Appeals Court Upholds Tennessee’s 48-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

Appeals Court Upholds Tennessee’s 48-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

On Aug. 5, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tennessee’s 48-hour abortion waiting period, reversing a district court’s previous ruling that claimed the law was unconstitutional.

“Before making life’s big decisions, it is often wise to take time to reflect,” Circuit Judge Amul Thapar wrote on behalf of the majority. “The people of Tennessee believed that having an abortion was one of those decisions.”

According to the 2015 law, a patient seeking an abortion is required to first be counseled by a doctor in-person and then wait at least 48 hours before returning for an abortion procedure.

Thapar went on to chide the district court for not following precedent in its previous ruling: “Although the Supreme Court upheld a similar 24-hour waiting period in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the district court said that Tennessee’s waiting period violates a woman’s right to have an abortion. We disagree and reverse.”

Thapar explained that the majority ruled in favor of the law because “none of the plaintiffs’ witnesses could name specific women who could not get an abortion because the waiting period pushed them past the cutoff date,” nor could they identify specific women whose medical conditions caused complications or psychological harm during the 48 hours.

“We thank the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for hearing this case and for affirming the voice of Tennessee voters,” said Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “We have felt all along that this was a commonsense law that gave women time for thoughtful consideration to choose life and reduce coerced abortions.”

Denise Harle, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, agreed, adding that the law is “compassionate” and a “constitutional statute that protects women.”

“Every woman should have the information she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in a pregnancy,” she said. “Many women resort to abortion because they feel it is their only choice and then regret the decision for years to come. 

“As the 6th Circuit held, the Supreme Court has already recognized that state governments have the constitutional authority to provide women contemplating abortions the opportunity to receive crucially important information before such a life-changing procedure is performed. … The 6th Circuit reached the right result in upholding it,” Harle concluded.

Despite the recent ruling, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights said the fight isn’t over.

“Abortion is health care,” said Ashley Coffield, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee & North Mississippi, “and we at Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for our right to control our own bodies because our patients deserve nothing less.”

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