Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Tennessee Abortion Reversal Law

The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-

A Tennessee law requiring doctors to inform women that drug-induced abortions may be reversed has been halted temporarily by U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell.

Passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, the law requiring such notification was to go into effect October 1. Campbell’s temporary restraining order halted its rollout.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that [the law] violates the First Amendment by requiring abortion providers to convey a mandated message that is misleading,” Campbell wrote in the order.

The law would require abortion providers to tell women seeking a drug-induced abortion that the procedure can be reversed at least 48 hours in advance of providing abortion medication and again after the patient took the first medication. Providers also would be required to post signs in their facilities notifying patients about possible reversal of drug-induced abortion. Failure to comply with the law would be a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the law, saying that it would have forced providers to share false and misleading information with patients, when there is no medical evidence to support drug-induced abortions may be reversed halfway.

“This decision is a victory for patients, who rightfully expect factual and clear information from their personal doctors,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director for the ACLU of Tennessee. “Politicians should not be allowed to force physicians to provide false and misleading information to their patients.”

Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi also praised Campbell’s action.

“This law was one dangerous part of an abortion ban bill Tennessee politicians pushed through in the dead of night, as our state was grappling with the beginnings of a pandemic and a reckoning with racial injustice in our communities,” Planned Parenthood CEO Ashley Coffield said. “Today is a victory in blocking another failed policy peddled by Gov. Lee, but the fight has just begun.”

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk filed a declaration with the court last week promising not to enforce the new law on constitutional grounds.

“Criminal law must not be used by the State to exercise control over a woman’s body,” Funk wrote.

Gov. Bill Lee responded to Funk’s pledge not to enforce the law set to take effect.

“A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences,” Lee said in a statement. “The rule of law is the cornerstone of our legal system, and we all take an oath to uphold the law, not to pick and choose what laws to follow based on politics or personal feelings.”

Six other states require doctors to tell women it is possible to reverse a drug-induced abortion: Arkasnsas, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

Earlier this year, Campbell blocked rollout of Tennessee’s “heartbeat” law, which prohibits doctors from providing abortions to women after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually is around six weeks. The state has appealed the restraining order on the “heartbeat” law.

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