Federal appeals court reinstates Tennessee abortion waiting period
© WikiMedia (Debra Sweet)
Federal appeals court reinstates Tennessee abortion waiting period

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Friday reinstated a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions in Tennessee.

Tenn. Code § 39-15-202, enacted in 2015, mandated that women make two trips to an abortion client. On the first trip, women seeking abortions received mandatory counseling and information regarding abortion risks. Then, women were required to wait 48 hours before returning for the actual procedure. According to supporters of the law, this time constraint was intended to ensure that the woman receiving the abortion gave informed consent.

The US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee struck down the requirement in 2020, declaring it unconstitutional. In February, the Sixth Circuit denied Tennessee’s request to set aside the district court’s ruling until an appeal was heard.

On April 5, Tennessee filed an emergency request asking the US Supreme Court to reinstate the 48-hour mandatory waiting period for abortions pending appeal. The state also filed a motion for expedited consideration and to stay the district court’s judgment and injunction pending appeal.

On Friday, the appeals court granted the motion for expedited consideration, further ordering that the motion to stay the judgment and injunction was granted. The court vacated its previous opinion from February, in which it denied the state’s request.

Circuit Judges Karen Moore and Julia Gibbons dissented. Gibbons wrote that she was not convinced that the state made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its case. She wrote that it was unclear that these waiting periods were constitutional, and that the question cannot be easily resolved by looking at Supreme Court precedent.