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Groups Challenge New TN 'Abortion-Reversal' Law

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Tennessee currently bans the use of telehealth for medication-induced abortion and has a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. (Adobe Stock)
Tennessee currently bans the use of telehealth for medication-induced abortion and has a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. (Adobe Stock)
September 11, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A state law goes into effect next month that requires doctors in Tennessee to tell women who want a medication-induced abortion that the procedure can be reversed. However, several groups, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to block it.

Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law would require doctors to lie to patients and share misinformation that isn't backed up by credible science.

"Major medical associations, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association -- which are two of the leading medical associations in the country -- they've looked at the evidence and they've said there is no basis at all to support this statement that Tennessee's politicians want to force physicians to say to their patients."

Earlier this year, state lawmakers attempted to pass a full ban on abortions during the pandemic, but it was blocked by a Nashville District Court in April. If the new law goes into effect Oct. 1, doctors must tell patients at least 48 hours in advance that the procedure can be reversed, and post signs to that effect in their clinics. Providers who don't comply would face criminal charges, including up to six years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

In recent years, Beck said, similar legislation has been proposed across the country - including in Arizona, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

"And I think it's not a coincidence that states are passing these laws," he said. "It's part of a larger national effort by politicians, in Tennessee and elsewhere, to interfere with access to abortion, to shame patients who are seeking abortion care and to put that care further out of reach."

Abortion-reversal laws have their origins in an anti-abortion researcher's 2012 studies that claimed certain hormones could reverse the effects of drugs used for medical abortion. However, the studies have since been debunked, and their critics said they failed to meet basic standards of clinical science.

The text of the legislation, House Bill 2263, is online at legiscan.com, and the lawsuit is at aclu-tn.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - TN