Federal judge temporary halts Tennessee’s so-called “abortion reversal” law, set to go into effect Oct. 1

By: - September 30, 2020 9:19 am
Tennessee State Capitol (Getty Images)

Tennessee State Capitol (Getty Images)

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Tennessee law requiring abortion providers to tell women a medication abortion can be reversed — a claim that providers have called “scientifically unsupported and misleading information.”

The law, enacted earlier this year by Tennessee lawmakers, was set to go into effect October 1. It makes it a felony for abortion providers not to tell women that a chemical abortion, which requires taking two doses of medication days apart, can be reversed after taking the first dose. 

The law also requires clinics to post signs in bold print with the same information. 

Providers who fail to follow the law could prosecuted as a Class E felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine per day for failing to post signage. 

Attorneys for the state argued that the information required to be given to women under the law is “medically sound.”

Davidson County District Attorney Glen Funk in court filings last week called the measure unconstitutional and said that he would not enforce it. 

U.S. District Judge William Campbell, Jr. in his order suspended the law from taking effect until October 13 at 4 p.m. A hearing to determine whether a preliminary injunction blocking the measure while it is litigated in court is set for October 13 at 10 a.m.

In issuing the temporary restraining order, Campbell said that the abortion clinics challenging the law have thus far shown a “strong or substantial” likelihood they will succeed in court and that women could be harmed should the law go into effect.

Campbell also noted that the state has failed to comply one aspect of the law — requiring abortion providers to tell patients that “information on and assistance with reversing the effects of a chemical abortion” is available on the Department of Health website.

The state has thus far hasn’t posted that information, the judge noted.

This lawsuit is one of three about abortion restrictions enacted by state lawmaker currently being litigated in federal court.

A separate lawsuit is challenging an abortion waiting period, requiring women in Tennessee to wait 48 hours after getting information about abortion from a physician before returning for the procedure. That law remains in effect.

A third lawsuit regarding Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order halting abortions during the pandemic in order to preserve personal protective equipment was halted by a federal judge. The state has appealed that ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.