NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The 48-hour waiting period for abortions in Tennessee will stand after a six-year battle in court. State Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Friday that the constitutionality of the law is “no longer subject to question.”
Slatery said the opportunity for the plaintiffs to seek further review from the U.S. Supreme Court has passed, so the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling will stand and the legal battle is over.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the law in 2015. The law requires women to wait 48 hours after getting consultation with a doctor about an abortion before the procedure can be done.
It also requires doctors to tell women about the risks involved of an abortion and carrying the pregnancy to term. The only exception to the waiting period is in the case of an emergency.
A federal lawsuit was filed in June 2015 by CHOICES, the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Adams & Boyle P.C., which operates the Bristol Regional Women’s Center in Bristol and The Women’s Center in Nashville, and Dr. Wesley Adams Jr., an obstetrician-gynecologist who provides abortions at the Nashville and Bristol clinics.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Freidman struck down the law in October 2020. In the ruling Freidman said the law “substantially burdens women seeking an abortion in Tennessee.”
A federal appeals court reinstated the waiting period for women seeking abortions in April, arguing that opponents had failed to identify instances where a woman had been significantly burdened by the requirement.
“This law was on the books for five years before the district court enjoined it,” Slatery said. “The Sixth Circuit took the unusual step of having the full court review the district court decision and that of its own panel. We are grateful that the court recognized the validity of a law passed by the people’s representatives and did not substitute its own judgment for the policy decision made by the legislature and the governor.”
In August the full appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment and that of its own panel. It upheld Tennessee’s waiting-period, concluding that it “is facially constitutional” because it is “supported by a rational basis” and “is not a substantial obstacle to abortion for a large fraction of women seeking pre-viability abortions in Tennessee.”
The court explained that the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which upheld Pennsylvania’s similar waiting-period law, “compel[led] this result” saying the waiting period “resulted from a decades-long democratic process” that included a state constitutional amendment.