Federal judge strikes down Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period on abortions

Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Wednesday, a federal district court struck down Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period law for women seeking abortions in the state.

The law, which took effect in 2015, required women to wait 48 hours to have an abortion after receiving in-person, state-mandated counseling. Multiple reproductive rights organizations filed litigation challenging the law, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC, and Jessee & Jessee.

“Defendants’ suggestion that women are overly emotional and must be required to cool off or calm down before having a medical procedure they have decided they want to have, and that they are constitutionally entitled to have, is highly insulting and paternalistic – and all the more so given that no such waiting periods apply to men,” Judge Bernard Friedman wrote in the decision. “It is apparent that this waiting period unduly burdens women’s right to an abortion and is an affront to their ‘dignity and autonomy,’ ‘personhood’ and ‘destiny,’ and ‘conception of . . . [their] place in society.’” 

Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi’s President and CEO Ashley Coffield said the organization is relieved to see the federal district court’s decision.

“With 17 abortion-related cases one step away from the Supreme Court — including one from Tennessee banning abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy — it’s clear that the right to access safe, legal abortion is under attack like never before,” Coffield said. “So many patients in our region regularly face barriers to care due to a lack of nearby health centers and systemic inequities that make it harder for people with low incomes and people of color to access care. Intrusive, unnecessary, and medically dangerous restrictions like the 48-hour waiting period only make it harder to access basic health care.”

Tennessee’s Right to Life organization voiced their disagreement with the decision, saying they feel it eliminates a “basic-safeguard” in place.

“Not only is this decision a slap at Tennessee’s abortion-vulnerable women, it is an affront to Tennessee’s voters who passed a 2014 constitutional amendment in which allowing a short waiting period was a key factor,” Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris said in a statement. “Our organization remains committed to seeing a similar statute drafted and enforced during the next legislative session.”

This ruling means the 48-hour waiting period will cease effective immediately.

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