Waiting Period Law that States an Abortion Cannot Take Place Before a 48-Hour “Waiting Period” on Hold in Tennessee

Feb 22, 2021 at 07:35 am by WGNS


On Friday, February 19, 2021, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a divided 2-1 decision, ruled to deny the State of Tennessee's petition to stay the injunction applied by the Federal District Court of Middle Tennessee against Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period with regard to abortions. 

As a result of the court proceedure, there is no requirment for a woman to wait 48-hours before having an abortion in Tennessee. 

Stacy Dunn, Vice President of Tennessee Right to Life stated, “This is, yet again, another slap in the face to the voters of Tennessee who sent their legislators to Nashville to enact legislation such as this waiting period and informed consent law to protect pregnant women and their unborn children.”

Tennessee passed the 48-hour waiting period law in 2015. On June 25, 2015, abortion facility owner-operators filed suit against the Tennessee law.

The VP of the Right to Life organization continued, "The Appellate Courts have consistently upheld states' waiting periods and we are hopeful that Tennessee's law will ultimately be upheld. However, the Sixth Circuit's decision puts the lives of countless unborn children in jeopardy until then."

The 2015 complaint against the Volunteer State and the 48-hour abortion waiting period was filed in federal court by operators of Choices abortion facility in Memphis and owners of unlicensed abortion centers in Bristol and Nashville. New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the abortion facilities and Tennessee's Attorney General is defending the constitutionality of the protective laws.

The waiting period law was allowed to remain in effect during the court challenge from 2015 to October 14, 2020. On November 4, 2020, Tennessee Attorney General, Herbert Slatery, filed a motion with the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals asking for the law to remain in effect while being appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

This past Friday (2/19/2021), the courts ruled to drop that 48-hour waiting period before an abortion is performed. Therefore, the waiting period is now over and an abortion can occur on the same day that the medical procedure is requested in Tennessee. 

Pending further appeal by Attorney General Herbert Slatery or an en banc review, the injunction will remain in effect until the Sixth Circuit decides the case on its merits.

En banc review is used for unusually complex cases or when the court feels there is a particularly significant issue at stake. Again, the 48-hour waiting periord law is now on hold. 

Link to court case dates: https://www.tnrtl.org/pro_life_statutes