A federal appeals court has ruled that Tennessee can enforce its 48-hour waiting period for abortions while the court reviews the state’s appeal of a previous 2020 ruling that found the waiting period law unconstitutional.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision was handed down on Friday and put the waiting period back into effect immediately.
“We are pleased that the full Sixth Circuit has recognized that Tennessee’s law, requiring a 48-hour waiting period for abortions, is likely constitutional and can be enforced while the appeal proceeds,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III. “The Supreme Court has recognized the authority of State governments to provide women considering abortion the opportunity to receive important information before a life-changing decision is made. Tennesseans, through their elected representatives, voted for this law and this Office will defend it.”
Tennessee had a 48-hour waiting period in effect from 1978 to 2000, after which the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution contained a right to privacy — and therefore, a right to abortion. However, 15 years later in 2015, the state Constitution was revised to state that there is no right to abortion and the 48-hour waiting period law went back into effect. A federal judge struck down the 48-hour waiting period law as unconstitutional in October 2000.
Then in 2017, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, representing the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, filed a lawsuit challenging the law, claiming that waiting two days for an abortion imposes a “burdensome delay in access to care that serves no medical purpose whatsoever….” However, every surgery, unless it is an emergency, involves a waiting period. If Planned Parenthood is truly counseling women to inform them of all of their options — including parenting and adoption — then it would be natural to give women the information and then give them time to make an informed decision, at the very least. Deliberately killing a preborn child is not an emergency and is not truly medically necessary. Waiting periods for abortion are an important part of providing informed consent for women considering a procedure which ends the life of a distinct human being.
In 2019 as the case progressed, attorney Steve Hart with the Tennessee Attorney General Offices noted a number disclosed by Planned Parenthood: in the three years since the 48-hour waiting period went back into effect, 2,365 women who went to Planned Parenthood for the first abortion appointment did not return for their second appointment to have the abortion. This means Planned Parenthood lost money, and is now suing under the auspices of the law being a burden to women.
Until the current appeal case is finalized, the 48-hour waiting period will remain in effect.
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