On June 19, 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law that would force physicians and clinics that provide medication abortions to provide false and misleading information to their patients. The law requires doctors to tell patients about the potential to "reverse" a medication abortion, an unproven claim with no basis in medical research. This requirement is part of the same legislation that would essentially ban abortions in Tennessee which are also challenging.
The law requires providers to share this misinformation with the patients at least 48 hours prior to providing a medication abortion and again after the patient takes the first medication. Under the law, clinics must also post large signs with bold print informing patients about abortions "reversal." Providers who refused to comply would face criminal prosecution for a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. Health center would face a $10,000 daily fine for failure to display the required signs.
On Agust 31, ACLU-TN and our partners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee against Attorney General Herbert Slatery and other state officials. The lawsuit challenges the coercion of physicians to communicate a government-ordered message in violation of the First Amendment; the violation of patients' privacy rights; and the denial of equal protection of the Fourteenth Amendment to abortion providers.
Contrary to the proclamation required under this law, the abortion process cannot be undone. Leading medical experts, from the American Medical Association to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have refuted the pseudoscientific evidence cited by state officials pushing for this legislation.
On September 29, 2020, the Court issued a temproary restraining order blocking enforcement of the law until a hearing could be held. A hearing on the preliminary injunction began on December 1, 2020 and concluded on January 25, 2021. At the request of the court, parties filed supplemental briefs on February 12, 2021, addressing the language that the Tennessee Department of Health had posted on their website concerning the law.
On February 26, 2021, the court granted the motion for preliminary injunction, prohibiting enforcement of the statute while our lawsuit proceeds. The case is set to go to trial on May 2, 2023.
Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Femhealth USA, inc., d/b/a carafem, Audrey Lance, M.D., M.S.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Lisa Piercey, Rene Saunders, M.D., W. Reeves Johnson, Jr., M.D., Honorable Amy P. Weirich, Glenn Funk, Charme P. Allen
ACLU-TN: Thomas H. Castelli, Stella Yarbrough
ACLU: Andrew Beck, Rebecca Chan
Planned Parenthood Federation of America: Hana Bajramovic, Jennifder Sandman
Center for Reproductive Rights: Michelle Moriarty, Marc Hearron