Judge blocks Tennessee law requiring doctors to inform mothers about abortion pill reversal

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building during the Right To Life March, on January 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A federal judge struck down a Tennessee law requiring abortion providers to inform women who undergo a drug-induced abortion that the process can be reversed to save the baby.

On Tuesday, Judge William Campbell sided with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the ACLU, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, all of which filed a lawsuit against the law on Aug. 31, by putting it on hold. The plaintiffs contended that the law violates the First Amendment as well as the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Campbell, a Trump appointee, ruled that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that (the law) violates the First Amendment by requiring abortion providers to convey a mandated message that is misleading.”

In a medical abortion, women are given two drugs: mifepristone (RU-486), and misoprostol. Mifepristone works by blocking the effects of the natural pregnancy hormone progesterone. Misoprostol induces contractions and a miscarriage. The abortion can be reversed after taking mifepristone and before taking misopristol.

The law would require abortion providers to post signs in their clinics explaining that women have the option to reverse the abortion before taking the second pill if they change their mind.

In addition to the signs, abortionists themselves would also be required to inform mothers that their abortion could be reversed. Failure to comply with the law could lead to a fine or up to six years in prison.

In response to the ruling, Samantha Fisher, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, explained that “the temporary restraining order merely preserves the status quo until the district court can hold a preliminary injunction hearing.” That hearing will take place on Oct. 13.

Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah also have laws requiring abortionists to inform mothers that they have the ability to reverse their medication abortion. Tennessee is one of three states where such a policy has been put on hold by a court ruling. The others are North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Sue Turner, director of Physicians for Life, previously told The Christian Post that if a pregnant woman who has taken the first of two abortion pills decides she’s made a mistake and wants to keep her baby, she would have a relatively high chance of delivering a healthy baby if she was to undergo the reversal.

Turner cited a U.S. study that showed a 64% to 68% success rate of delivering a healthy baby after a woman has been given the natural hormone progesterone that’s essential to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. CP previously reported on that study and its results here and here.

“If the mifepristone is blocking the progesterone we give a pregnant woman more progesterone to rise above that limit,” Turner said, “then she should get enough progesterone to hold the baby in place.”

“Natural progesterone has been used for decades to stop miscarriages. The doctors will give the mother natural progesterone to stop her from having contractions and help hold the baby in place until she gets closer to her due date. That was why they used it in the first place,” Turner explained.

Requiring abortionists to inform mothers about the option to try an abortion pill reversal was just one provision of a larger pro-life law that Tennessee passed earlier this year. Another provision of the law banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Campbell struck down that provision in July.

Tennessee is one of many states that has passed such laws, often referred to as a “heartbeat bill.” Heartbeat bills in Mississippi, Georgia, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas and North Dakota have also been struck down as unconstitutional.

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