(92C-1672, Circuit Court for Davidson County)
(01A01-9601-CV-00052, Court of Appeals of Tennessee)
(01S01-9902-CV-00034, Supreme Court of Tennessee)
ACLU Attorneys/Cooperating Attorneys: Barry Friedman, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee; Irwin Venick, Dobbins & Venick, Nashville, Tennessee; Elizabeth B. Thompson, Howrey & Simon, Washington, DC; Barbara E. Otten, Dara Klassel, Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., New York, N.Y.; Louise Melling, Catherine Weiss, American Civil Liberties Foundation, New York, N.Y.; For American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Ann E. Allen, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, DC; Abby R. Rubenfeld, Rubenfeld & Associates, Nashville, Tennessee
Plaintiffs: Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee
Defendants: Don Sundquist and Ned McWherter
In 1992, ACLU-TN and Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee (PPMT) filed a lawsuit to challenge Tennessee’s restrictive abortion statute, arguing that it placed a substantial and unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortions in Tennessee.
The lawsuit was the first challenge to a state law following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the court preserved constitutional protection for the right to choose but adopted a new and weaker test for evaluating restrictive abortion laws.
The Tennessee law challenged in Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al v. Sundquist et al. required that all abortions after three months be performed in a hospital; that women who obtain abortions be residents of Tennessee; that all women seeking abortions wait three days after their initial visit to a healthcare provider; and that a minor inform both parents of her intent to have an abortion – without offering a bypass procedure. The law also mandated doctor-only, biased counseling.
ACLU’s lawsuit contended that the restrictions violated the Tennessee Constitution’s right to privacy. It also argued that the overall effect of the restrictions was that access to abortion services in Tennessee would be severely curtailed, depriving many women of their constitutional right to abortion. In addition, the informed consent requirement interfered with the practice of medicine and the doctor-patient relationship by compelling speech.
Based primarily on the privacy guarantees of the Tennessee Constitution, a Davidson County Circuit Court judge overturned the three-day mandatory delay and state residency requirements to obtain an abortion. The judge upheld the state’s parental notification and informed consent restrictions, but he broadly interpreted them to allow physicians greater flexibility in applying the regulations.
On June 7, 1996, ACLU attorneys argued before the Tennessee Court of Appeals that the state’s abortion statute places an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. ACLU focused on three key issues: 1) the three-day waiting period, 2) mandated physician biased counseling, and 3) the second trimester hospitalization requirement. ACLU contended that since the state had failed to demonstrate a compelling interest, these requirements should be struck down.
The Court of Appeals upheld the statute’s provisions requiring that l) all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital; 2) a woman’s physician provide her with state-mandated information; and 3) the abortion be delayed until at least the third day after the day on which the information is provided.
ACLU and Planned Parenthood appealed and in October 1999, ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Barry Friedman presented oral arguments before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled on September 5, 2000 that the right to privacy was fundamental and therefore that any regulation affecting this right must be reviewed using the strict scrutiny standard. The Supreme Court also ruled that the right to abortion was fundamental and that obstacles such as waiting periods, biased counseling, and hospitalization for second trimester abortions were unduly burdensome.
Trial Begins in Tennessee Abortion Lawsuit (October 26, 1992)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Judgment (August 12, 1998, Tennessee Court of Appeals)
Plaintiffs’ Motion for the Tennessee Supreme Court to Assume Jurisdiction (January 18, 1996)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Amended Final Order and Judgment (August 23, 1995, Circuit Court)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Final Order and Judgment (June 17, 1994, Circuit Court)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Opinion (March 7, 1994, Circuit Court)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Memorandum (February 5, 1993, Circuit Court)
Permanent Injunction and Restraining Order (November 19, 1992)
Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee et al. v. Sundquist – Opinion (November 19, 1992)