Tennessee’s medication abortion law blocked by judge
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
NASHVILLE (AP) — A federal judge has blocked a Tennessee law that required women undergoing drug-induced abortions be informed the procedure could be reversed.
The statute was about to go into effect Wednesday after the GOP-dominant General Assembly advanced a sweeping anti-abortion measure earlier this year. The law included not only the so-called “abortion reversal” provision, but also a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Both portions of that statute are now blocked from being implemented as these legal cases make their way through court.
Under the Tennessee law, doctors would be required to inform women that drug-induced abortions may be halted halfway. Medical groups say the claim is not backed up by science and there is little information about the reversal procedure’s safety.
Those who failed to comply with the law would face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.
Abortion rights advocates argue the law is unconstitutional because it requires doctors to communicate “controversial government-mandated” information that they otherwise would not relay to their patients.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that (the law) violates the First Amendment by requiring abortion providers to convey a mandated message that is misleading,” wrote U.S. District Judge William Campbell in his Tuesday night ruling.
However, Campbell held off from weighing on whether the information doctors have to provide to their patients regarding drug-induced abortions was accurate. Instead, he said he would make that determination at the Oct. 13 preliminary injunction hearing when experts could testify.
The state’s attorneys have maintained the information is crucial for women who may change their minds halfway through the procedure.
Six states already require doctors to tell women that it may be possible reverse a medication abortion: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. In two other states, Oklahoma and North Dakota, these laws are blocked by legal challenges.
A drug-induced abortion, also called a medical abortion, involves taking two drugs. The first — mifepristone — thins the lining of the uterus and loosens the connection between the embryo and the uterine lining. The second — misoprostol — softens and opens the cervix and causes contractions to push out the pregnancy.
A medical abortion reversal involves giving a woman progesterone after the first step of a medical abortion. Progesterone is a hormone that thickens the uterine lining and inhibits contractions.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no medically accepted evidence that a drug-induced abortion can be interrupted.