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20 attorneys general file amicus brief challenging Tennessee abortion law

20 attorneys general file amicus brief challenging Tennessee abortion law
© Greg Nash

A group of 20 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in a case challenging a Tennessee law that requires women to have two in-person appointments at least 48 hours apart before having an abortion.

In their filing, the coalition called on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to uphold a lower court ruling that found the law “provides no appreciable benefit” to women’s health as state officials have argued. 

The attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and Washington, D.C., filed the brief in support of a group of Tennessee abortion providers. 

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“Time and again, various states have passed laws that seek to limit reproductive choices and control women’s bodies,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “This latest law by Tennessee not only does that, but does so while placing women’s health at risk. Our coalition will continue to fight to protect women’s bodies, their freedoms, and their choices.”

The attorneys general assert that many states do not require women who want abortions to go through “lengthy and onerous waiting periods” and trust physicians to get informed consent like in any other procedure. 

They also said the state has not provided evidence that women do not make informed decisions about the procedure without the period. 

“There is no evidence that women in these States fail to make informed decisions about their medical needs, or that waiting-period laws improve women’s decision-making process,” the attorneys general wrote. “The challenged law thus is not reasonably related to Tennessee’s stated aim of ensuring informed consent.”

The coalition sides with the plaintiffs in the case who have also argued that the waiting period increases the risks for women who seek abortions. 

The attorneys general cite a 1992 Supreme Court decision that determined states can limit women’s right to an abortion if the restrictions are related to the state’s interest, such as for the women’s safety, and do not create a “substantial obstacle.”

A Tennessee district court previously ruled against the law in September 2019, saying it “imposes numerous burdens that, taken together, place women’s physical and physiological health and well-being at risk.”