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Tennessee Governor Signs 48-Hour Waiting Period Bill

Teddy Wilson

Tennessee joins 26 states that require waiting periods prior to having an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill into law Monday mandating a 48-hour waiting period before a person can terminate a pregnancy.

HB 977, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), requires a 48-hour waiting period and in-person counseling before a pregnant person can receive abortion care. The bill was approved by lawmakers in the house with a 79-18 vote, and in the senate with a 24-2 vote.

Tennessee joins 26 states that require patients to wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Pro-choice advocates charged that anti-choice Tennessee legislators did not consult medical professionals in drafting HB 977 and pushing it through the GOP-controlled legislature.

The bill also includes a forced counseling provision that requires the physician performing an abortion to tell the pregnant patient state-mandated information about the procedure. States with similar mandates often dole out dubious information about abortion care.

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The bill was one of several anti-choice proposals introduced in the state legislature since Tennessee voters approved a constitutional amendment in November, which allows lawmakers to pass abortion regulations and restrict reproductive rights.

Lawmakers passed three bills intended to reinstate laws struck down by the state supreme court 15 years ago.

Planned Parenthood of the Greater Memphis Region said a statement that the new anti-choice law “undermines the medical discretion of professionals and the wishes of the patient.”

“It is a tool to shame and disgrace women who make the deeply personal decision to end a pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood said. “And it creates unnecessary financial and emotional hardships. The Tennessee General Assembly did not consult the medical community on this bill and even rejected amendments that would make exceptions for victims of rape and incest.”

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, praised the new law in a statement released after the signing.

“Women and girls considering abortion in our state deserve relevant details and adequate time to make fully informed decisions about the fate of their unborn child,” Harris said. “We are grateful to the voters who approved Amendment 1 and to the public officials who have fulfilled their commitment to restore common-sense protections for women, girls and unborn children in our state.”

The new law comes less than two weeks after Haslam signed another bill imposing new regulations on abortion clinics. SB 1280 would require facilities or physicians’ offices that provide more than 50 abortions in a calendar year to become ambulatory surgical treatment centers.

Lawmakers in several other states have introduced bills this year to mandate waiting periods before an abortion. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill into law this month mandating a 72-hour waiting period. Lawmakers in the North Carolina legislature also passed 72-hour waiting period bill.

Another anti-choice bill passed by Tennessee state lawmakers still awaits Haslam’s signature. SB 1222, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), would increase reporting requirements for abortion providers by requiring physicians to keep a record of each procedure for five years and provide reports to the commissioner of health.

The new waiting period law goes into effect July 1.

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