NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s attorney general on Wednesday asked a federal judge to allow the state’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions to remain in effect while the state appeals a ruling that struck it down as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Freidman ruled last month that Tennessee’s waiting period law serves no legitimate purpose while placing a substantial burden on women who seek abortions in Tennessee. The 2015 law requires women to make two trips to an abortion clinic, first for mandatory counseling and then for the abortion at least 48 hours later.
A motion filed by state Attorney General Herbert Slatery in the U.S. District Court in Nashville on Wednesday asks Friedman to keep the law in place for now. It argues that although the state lost at the federal district court level, it is likely to win at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because the waiting period law does not violate the constitutional right to an abortion.
Also, the motion says that keeping the law in place during the appeals process will not harm abortion providers, who have been complying with the law for the entire five years it took to get a ruling in federal court.
Directors of Tennessee abortion clinics testified during the 2019 trial that the wait period causes women financial hardship and stress. They also said the two-visit requirement poses logistical challenges for patients and clinics that cause abortions to be delayed far beyond the 48 hours required by law, pushing some women into surgical abortions, which have greater risks of complications. A few women are pushed beyond the time when they can receive an abortion altogether.
Friedman found that the evidence supported those claims because second trimester abortions had increased since the law went into effect and safer medication abortions had decreased.