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Tennessee

Biased Counseling & Mandatory Delay

The informed written consent of a woman must be obtained prior to an abortion. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15- 202(a) (Enacted 1989). 

A court held that additional provisions of this law, providing biased counseling, physician-only counseling, and mandatory-delay requirements, are unconstitutional.  Planned Parenthood of Middle Tenn. v. Sundquist, 38 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2000).

These unconstitutional and unenforceable provisions provide that a woman may not obtain an abortion until the third day following the day the attending physician recites a state-mandated lecture that must include:  (1) the number of weeks elapsed from the probable time of conception and, if more than 24 weeks have elapsed, that the "child" may be viable and the physician has "a legal obligation to take steps to preserve the life" of a viable "child"; (2) that "abortion in a considerable number of cases constitutes a major surgical procedure"; (3) that "numerous" public and private agencies and services are available to assist her during her pregnancy and after the birth of the child and that her physician will provide her with a list of such agencies and services upon request; and (4) the risks and benefits associated with abortion and with childbirth.  Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-202 (Enacted 1989; Last Amended 1995).

In addition, the Tennessee attorney general has issued an opinion stating that this informed-consent law - minus the provisions ruled unconstitutional - applies to the use of mifepristone because Tennessee law defines abortion as including the use of a medication. Tenn. Op. Att'y Gen. No. 01-030 (Mar. 7, 2001).

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