Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Federal judge strikes down Tennessee law requiring abortion waiting period
© WikiMedia (James McNellis)
Federal judge strikes down Tennessee law requiring abortion waiting period

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a 2015 Tennessee law that required women seeking an abortion to wait for at least 48 hours before undergoing the procedure.

This law, Tenn. Code § 39-15-202, effectively required women to make two trips to the clinic: the first one for in-person counseling with the doctor, and the second one—taking place at least 48 hours later—to undergo the procedure. It did so in order to ensure that the women’s consent to the procedure was “truly informed consent.”

Finding that it imposed an undue burden on women’s right to an abortion, Judge Bernard Friedman concluded that the law’s mandatory waiting period was unconstitutional.

He explained that the mandatory waiting period imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion because it delayed a “time-sensitive medical procedure” and made the procedure time-consuming, costly and inconvenient to obtain since these women were predominantly low-income individuals who could not financially and logistically afford to make two trips to the clinic to get an abortion.

He also noted that the notion that women are overly emotional and need to cool off before undergoing a medical procedure to which they are constitutionally entitled was “highly insulting and paternalistic.”

“It is apparent that this waiting period unduly burdens women’s right to an abortion and is an affront to their dignity and autonomy, personhood and destiny, and conception of their place in society,” wrote Friedman.

This ruling effectively blocks the enforcement of the mandatory waiting period, thus allowing women to undergo the procedure in one visit to the clinic. It comes at a time when worries among pro-choice groups over the possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned are at an all-time high because of the possibility that Amy Coney Barrett will be approved by Senate to be the newest US Supreme Court justice.