Tennessee Legislature Passes Bills Forcing Abortion Delays, Clinic Closures

April 21, 2015 1:00 pm

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NEW YORK – The Tennessee legislature today sent two abortion restriction bills to the governor’s desk, which he is expected to sign, that would mandate abortion delays and could force women’s health clinics to close.

One would force a woman who has decided to have an abortion to delay it by at least 48 hours and to make two trips to the clinic. The other, a Texas-style abortion restriction, would single out abortion clinics for expensive, medically unnecessary building renovations. As in Texas, this provision was designed to force clinics to close, further restricting access to safe, legal abortion.

“Medical experts oppose the laws because a woman who has already decided to have an abortion shouldn’t be forced to delay it because of medically unnecessary waiting periods, needless additional trips to the clinic, or because the clinic in her area has been forced out of business,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “No matter how we feel about abortion, we can agree that a woman who has decided to get an abortion should get safe, timely, compassionate care. Politicians shouldn’t be ignoring medical experts and passing laws designed to force clinics to shut down or to hinder a woman and to make her feel bad about her decision.”

Tennessee legislators also considered another restriction, similar to the North Carolina ultrasound law, which was struck down in a strongly worded opinion by a leading conservative judge. The Tennessee bill would force a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion and view the image. If a woman decides not to view the ultrasound, the bill would force her health care provider to describe it in detail, even if the woman said she didn’t want to hear it and the doctor felt the description was bad for her mental health.

These restrictions are at odds with Americans’ views. New polling shows that seven in 10 Americans believe that a woman who has decided to have an abortion should be able to do so without added burdens. Nearly three in four Americans say a woman’s experience should be comfortable, supportive, without pressure, and non-judgmental. These laws are designed to ensure the experience is the opposite.

Taken together, laws that force clinics to close and impose additional barriers like mandatory waiting periods can effectively shut a woman off from abortion access. The combination of these laws create long travel times, require a woman to take many days off work, obtain additional childcare, and can dramatically increase the cost of the procedure because of travel and lodging.

These restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to block a woman from having an abortion by making safe, legal abortion inaccessible. Already this year, more than 330 restrictions have been introduced in 43 states.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes laws that restrict access to abortion. It and the American Medical Association have said that laws like the one that could force clinics to close have “no medical basis” and that they “do not serve the health of women.”

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