U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Tennessee’s Abortion Waiting Period

Photo: Washington, D.C. Pro-Life March on Jan. 25, 2013

Photo Credit: American Life League / CC

Published August 6, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Tennessee will keep its 48-hour abortion waiting period, thanks to a Thursday ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

According to the 2015 law, patients who want an abortion must first have an in-person counseling session with a physician and then wait a minimum of 48 hours before having the procedure done.

In October, Middle Tennessee District Judge Bernard A. Friedman ruled the law to be unconstitutional. He said the state failed to prove that the waiting period actually protected fetal life.

The full appeals court later ruled in April that the law would remain in effect throughout the ongoing appeal.

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They met again in June to hear arguments about the waiting period, ultimately deciding that the claims filed against the law could not be substantiated.

“None of the plaintiff’s witnesses could name specific women who could not get an abortion because the waiting period pushed them past the cutoff date,” the justices wrote. “None of the witnesses could identify specific women whose medical conditions caused complications or psychological harm during the waiting period.”

They also noted that the number of abortions performed annually had remained steady in the five years that the law had been in effect.

“It is one thing to predict that the sky will fall tomorrow,” the ruling reads. “It’s quite another thing to maintain that the sky fell five years ago for women seeking abortions when the numbers tell us otherwise.”

Opponents of the law claim that the waiting period makes it harder for women to receive the services they are seeking due to over-booked clinics and the burden of transportation or childcare.

“With this law, politicians are purporting they know better than patients when it comes to making personal decisions about their health care. It’s demeaning and medically unnecessary,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore also included a strong dissent in the ruling, saying that the law “peddles in stigma” against women.

“In this circuit, the scales have now tipped inescapably against women: their rights are secondary, their burdens immaterial, the obstacles they must face are nothing,” Moore stated.

Many conservatives spoke out in favor of the ruling, however.

Denise Harle, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, issued a statement on Thursday. 

“Many women resort to abortion because they feel it is their only choice and then regret the decision for years to come,” Harle said. “Tennessee’s law is a commonsense, compassionate, and constitutional statute that protects women, and the 6th Circuit reached the right result in upholding it.”

Attorney General Herbert Slatery agreed, saying the ruling was “gratifying”. 

“First, the result: a law passed by our representative lawmakers and signed by the Governor five years ago – yes, five years ago – is constitutional. It has been on the books a long time. Second, the opinion was a reasoned analysis of the law and the lack of proof offered by the plaintiffs, rather than a decision based on policy.”

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative 

Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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