Lawsuit seeks to block Tennessee abortion reversal law
Published 12:33 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2020
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
NASHVILLE (AP) — Abortion rights groups on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging a newly enacted Tennessee law that would require women undergoing drug-induced abortions be informed the procedure can be reversed.
The complaint is the second legal battle targeting a sweeping anti-abortion measure Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed off on earlier this year.
The law focuses mainly on banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant. That portion was challenged just hours after the GOP-dominated Statehouse advanced the bill during the final hours of the annual legislative session.
However, also tucked in the 38-page law is a requirement that doctors must inform women that drug-induced abortions may be halted halfway. Medical groups say the claim isn’t backed up by science and there is little information about the reversal procedure’s safety.
Those who fail to comply with the law — which doesn’t go into effect until Oct. 1 — will face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. The lawsuit filed Monday seeks to prevent that requirement from being implemented.
A federal judge in North Dakota blocked a similar law last year.
“This medically unsound and factually inaccurate requirement is part of the coordinated war on truth and has no basis in science,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
“Patients shouldn’t be subjected to misinformation just to get a medication abortion. Adding insult to injury, threatening doctors with prison time makes this law that much more dangerous,” McGill added.
Along with Planned Parenthood, plaintiffs include the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union. These same groups are also involved in the initial lawsuit challenging the fetal heartbeat ban.
A federal judge has since granted a temporary restraining order on the fetal heartbeat ban, arguing that he was “bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions.”
According to the lawsuit submitted Monday, attorneys argue the law infringes on the First Amendment because it requires doctors to “communicate a content-based, viewpoint-based, and/or controversial government-mandated message that they would not otherwise recite concerning an experimental medical treatment that has not been shown to be safe or effective.”
The suit also claims the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it illegally singles out abortion patients and physicians who provide the procedure.
Meanwhile, Lee has previously promised to do “whatever it takes in court” to defend the anti-abortion law. The Republican frequently touted that “protecting life” by limiting abortion is a top priority for his administration.
Later, as COVID-19 first began sweeping across Tennessee earlier this year, Lee attempted to block abortions under an executive order banning nonessential medical procedures that was issued to slow the spread of COVID-19.
A federal judge later ruled that Tennessee had to continue allowing abortions, arguing the state did not show any appreciable amount of personal protective equipment would be saved if the ban was applied to abortions.
The plaintiffs in that legal case are now seeking to have the state cover nearly $100,000 in legal fees.