Tennessee abortion clinics hope to defeat waiting period

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge will hear opening statements Monday in a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period before abortions.

Five of the state’s seven abortion clinics are suing over the law, claiming it violates the U.S. Constitution. They will try to prove in federal court in Nashville that it places an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

Tennessee is one of 14 states with laws requiring women to make two trips to an abortion clinic, first for mandatory counseling and then for the abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Attorneys for the state plan to argue the waiting period benefits women by allowing them time to reflect on their decisions. Some women chose never to go back for the second appointment, they argue in court filings.

The clinics will try to show there is little evidence of a benefit to women. They say in court papers that the law has the practical effect of delaying abortions much more than 48 hours, forcing some women into second trimester abortions with a greater chance of complications.

Proving that the law poses an undue burden on women is highly dependent on the individual circumstances of the state.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 24-hour waiting period in Pennsylvania. But in Iowa last year, the state Supreme Court struck down a 72-hour waiting period there as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile in Florida, state attorneys will get a chance to argue in favor of a 24-hour waiting period after a state appeals court decision last month. It overturned a circuit court judge’s 2018 decision to throw out the law as unconstitutional without a trial.

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