State AGs fight to protect women’s access to abortion services
A coalition of 19 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Thursday supporting a group of Tennessee abortion providers.
The abortion providers are challenging a law requiring women seeking abortions to attend two in-person appointments with physicians no fewer than 48 hours apart.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his colleagues argue in their brief that waiting period laws, like Tennessee’s, are unnecessary and impose substantial burdens on women.
“Women deserve to be able to make their own choices about their reproductive health without the government making those decisions for them,” Herring said. “Tennessee’s waiting period is unnecessary and imposes several burdens on women seeking abortions including putting their mental and physical health at risk. I will continue to stand with my colleagues in fighting to make sure that women across the country have access to safe, quality healthcare services without their government getting in the way.”
In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that a state may impose restrictions on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy only if those restrictions are reasonably related to a legitimate state interest, such as protecting women’s health.
Following a four-day trial challenging Tennessee’s waiting period law in September 2019, the district court issued a thorough and comprehensive opinion, finding, among other things, that the law “provides no appreciable benefit” to women’s health and instead “imposes numerous burdens that, taken together, place women’s physical and physiological health and well-being at risk.”
In today’s brief, Herring and his colleagues urge the 6th Circuit to uphold the district court’s ruling. The coalition explains that, contrary to Tennessee’s suggestion, many states do not subject women seeking abortion care to lengthy and onerous waiting periods, and instead treat abortion as one medical service among many, governed by standard ethical and legal obligations to secure patients’ informed consent.
The attorneys general argue that because there is no evidence that women in these states fail to make informed decisions about their medical needs, Tennessee’s waiting-period law is not reasonably related to the aim of ensuring informed consent.
Herring and his colleagues also argue that waiting-period laws impose serious burdens on women seeking medical care by delaying abortions and thereby increasing associated medical risks, as well as adding financial and logistical costs.