Federal Appeals Court Upholds Abortion Waiting Period in Tennessee
Tennessee’s mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion went into effect in 2015.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A full panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled in favor of Tennessee’s mandatory 48-hour waiting period for abortions.
“Every woman should have the information she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in a pregnancy,” said Denise Harle, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of the law.
“Many women resort to abortion because they feel it is their only choice and then regret the decision for years to come,” Harle said. “Tennessee’s law is a commonsense, compassionate, and constitutional statute that protects women, and the 6th Circuit reached the right result in upholding it.”
Tennessee’s mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion went into effect in 2015. In October 2020, however, Judge Bernard Friedman ruled the law was unconstitutional, the first time a federal court had struck down a state waiting period for abortion. In December, Judge Friedman refused the keep the law in place after the state’s attorney general appealed. The state then appealed the case to the circuit court.
On Thursday, the full Sixth Circuit court ruled 10-7 in favor of the law, in Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Slatery.
“Before making life’s big decisions, it is often wise to take time to reflect. The people of Tennessee believed that having an abortion was one of those decisions. So they passed a law requiring a waiting period of 48 hours,” wrote Judge Amul Thapar, who authored the majority opinion in the case.
“Although the Supreme Court upheld a similar 24-hour waiting period in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the district court said that Tennessee’s waiting period violates a woman’s right to have an abortion. We disagree and reverse,” Thapar wrote.
Tennessee's law required abortionists to inform a woman during her first appointment “that numerous public and private agencies and services are available to assist her during her pregnancy and after the birth of her child” if she chose not to have the abortion.
Barring a medical emergency, a patient was then required to wait 48 hours before the second appointment and proceeding with the abortion.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 33 states require that women receive counseling before having an abortion, as of July 1, 2021. Of these states, 26 require a waiting period before an abortion, “most often 24 hours.”