A federal judge ruled a Tennessee law requiring women to wait at least 24 or 48 hours prior to abortion unconstitutional last week. The ruling impacts any aspect of the law that references mandatory waiting periods.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III was named the defendant in the case.
Judge Bernard Friedman issued the ruling, calling abortion a “time sensitive medical procedure.” Any waiting period served as a “substantial obstacle to a woman’s choice.” According to Friedman, the law was therefore unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“Defendants have failed to show that the challenged mandatory waiting period protects fetal life or the health of women in Tennessee,” stated Friedman. “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.'”
This Due Process Clause protects individuals from denial of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” It was unclear in the opinion whether Friedman’s analysis of this clause accounted for the Constitution’s distinction between liberty and license.
In 2018, Friedman was also responsible for striking down a federal law banning female genitalia mutilation (FGM). In that case, Friedman ruled that the law was unconstitutional because FGM doesn’t have anything to do with the Interstate Commerce Clause. On those grounds, the federal government couldn’t regulate FGM through the law they’d written.
Friedman’s order resulted in charges being dropped against eight individuals who committed FGM on nine underaged girls.
This most recent decision rested heavily on precedent from Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Friedman stated that the law doesn’t require any valuable information for the women’s decision making. Some of the information included agencies or services that offer help to women throughout the pregnancy and after birth, as well as a mandate descriptions of abortion procedures.
The decision also stated that the law discriminated on the basis of sex because it doubted women’s ability to make sound medical decisions and not men’s.
Overall, Friedman established that the “burdens imposed by the mandatory waiting period outweigh its benefits.” He cited logistical, financial, and emotional burdens in his opinion.
According to the attorney general’s office, Slatery plans to appeal the order.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Pro-Life Supporters” by Brian Stansberry CC BY 3.0.