Categories: Civil RightsHealthLaw

Tennessee Abortion Providers Challenge Medication Abortion Reversal Law

(CN) — Saying it compels them to give inaccurate medical advice to their patients, a group of abortion providers Monday challenged a new state law that requires them to tell women seeking medication abortions that the procedure can be reversed.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association have both rejected the claim that an abortion can be reversed, according to the 27-page lawsuit, which added the notion is “wholly unsupported by reliable scientific evidence.”

Abortion providers are asking a court to block a state law requiring them to tell patients a medication abortion can be reversed.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court Monday, the group of Tennessee abortion providers asked the court to find the law unconstitutional because it compels speech and violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

With the law slated to go into effect in about a month, the abortion providers are asking the court to block its implementation. 

According to the complaint, the law could push women towards initiating a medication abortion before they have fully made up their minds and cause them to undergo a medical procedure that’s “potentially unsafe.”

“The only foreseeable effect of providing patients with this information in advance is that patients who believe the State’s medically inaccurate disclosure may be misled into thinking that they need not have firmly decided to have an abortion prior to taking mifepristone, erroneously believing that the abortion can be ‘reversed’ if they later change their mind,” the complaint states.

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the regimen of mifepristone followed by misoprostol to abort an early pregnancy in 2000, about 4 million women have used the procedure, the complaint states.

Tennessee’s law, which was passed in June, requires abortion providers to post signs — printed in boldfaced type with letters at least three-quarters of an inch tall — that says a medication abortion may be reversible after a woman takes mifepristone but before she takes the second drug. The provider must also tell patents seeking medication abortions that the procedure may be reversible.

Failure to do so could result in the abortion provider facing fines, a Class E felony and one to six years in prison.

The suit says two doctors in San Diego have said they can reverse a medical abortion after a woman takes mifepristone by administering large doses of progesterone.

“And while some data support the general safety of progesterone in pregnancy, other studies have raised concerns about possible associations with second-trimester miscarriage, stillbirth, and certain birth defects,” the suit states. 

Last month, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the state from implementing another portion of the same law.

The lawsuit was brought by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The defendants include four district attorneys general and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III. The suit also names heads of the Tennessee Department of Health, the state’s Board of Medical Examiners and the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, six states require abortion providers tell patients a medication can be reversed. Two other states, Oklahoma and North Dakota, have had their abortion reversal laws enjoined by the courts.

In 2016, Arizona lawmakers agreed to repeal the state’s abortion reversal law and a judge threw out a challenge to the law there. 

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Attorney’s General Office did not immediately return requests for comment Monday. 

Rebecca Terrell, executive director for one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, said the law breaks the trust between patient and physician.

“Trust is the very foundation of our relationship with our patients,” Terrell said in a statement. “They trust us to support their decisions, to provide evidence-based care, and to tell them the truth.”

DANIEL JACKSON

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