Repro Roundup: A federal judge has declared a Tenessee abortion ban that requires a waiting period before abortion unconstitutional

Steph Black
3 min readOct 14, 2020

Welcome to my column, The Repro Roundup, in which I summarize abortion news happening around the country, why it matters, and what you can do about it — in 250 words or less.

What’s the issue? A 2015 law that required patients seeking abortion care to make two trips to the clinic 48-hours apart has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge today, according to the Tennessean. During the first visit, the patient was required to receive biased counseling from the provider and then wait for 48-hours until the second appointment when the abortion could actually take place.

The state argued that the waiting period was designed to protect fetal life and give women “mental clarity,” about their decisions. The judge punted back, saying, “Defendants have failed to show that the challenged mandatory waiting period protects fetal life or the health of women in Tennessee. It is apparent that this waiting period unduly burdens women’s right to an abortion and is an affront to their ‘dignity and autonomy,’ ‘personhood’ and ‘destiny,’ and ‘conception of . . . [their] place in society,’”

Why does this matter? Mandatory waiting periods compound the already steep barriers to abortion care that patients face, especially when patients are low-income, BIWOC, or minors. Delays in care also mean that a patient can potentially be pushed back beyond the legal gestational limit for when they can have an abortion. Additionally, it is extremely condescending to assume that a person needs to essentially be put in time-out to make sure they know what they want. Ninety-five percent of women who have an abortion don’t regret it and waiting periods only make abortion inaccessible for those people. Additionally, according to a longitudinal study by ANSIRH, people who are turned away from abortion care and forced to carry a pregnancy to term:

  • Have four times greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Are more likely to experience serious complications from the end of pregnancy including eclampsia and death
  • Are more likely to stay tethered to abusive partners
  • Are more likely to suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem in the short term after being denied an abortion
  • Are less likely to have aspirational life plans for the coming year

What can I do about it?

  • Read more about the Turnaway Study by ANSIRH
  • Read the full study on women who don’t regret their abortions by the University of California, San Fransisco
  • Discover which states have waiting periods and for how long from Guttmacher
  • Read more about the anti-abortion laws on the books in Tennesee from Guttmacher
  • Donate to Abortion Care Tennessee
  • Volunteer with Healthy & Free Tennessee
  • Clinic escort at a local abortion clinic
  • Subscribe to The Repro Queen of DC, my monthly newsletter on abortion access, activism, and writing on the frontlines of DC.
  • Subscribe to Repro 101, a seven-week educational email series about all things repro. Topics include the basics of funding abortion, clinic escorting, anti-choice violence, and more.

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Steph Black

Jewish, feminist, queer. Activist, writer in DC. Pro-abortion clinic escort and chronic volunteer. Get in touch, read my newsletter: linktr.ee/stephreflects