Pro-Life Waiting Period Law in Court

"25-40% of women seeking abortion arrive at the abortion facility undecided.....information and time benefit women."

Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Bowling Green State University Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, testimony in Federal court

Last week, leaders of Tennessee Right to Life spent 4 days attending the Federal court trial in the case challenging Tennessee’s Pro-life informed consent and 48-hour waiting laws. We were the only Pro-life group that attended the trial.

In 2015, members of the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a TRL-sponsored law requiring a 48 hour waiting period for any woman seeking an abortion. The law also requires that the woman receive information about her unborn child as well as the possible complications from the procedure. Combining the two provisions was meant to give women truth and time so that abortion facilities could not easily rush a woman into a decision that will affect her for the rest of her life.

The Right to Life-initiated law is credited as one of the reasons the abortion rate in Tennessee is the lowest it’s been since 1974. Click here to view Tennessee's latest abortion numbers. During the trial, Dr. Vanessa Lefler with the TN Dept of Health & Vital Statistics testified that the rate and number of abortions of Tennesseans have been declining since 2008.

After four long years, the case was heard last week in the Middle Tennessee Federal District Court in Nashville by Judge Friedman from Detroit. The list of Plaintiffs’ attorneys included five law groups, two of which are from New York. The Tennessee Attorney General’s office defended the life-protecting measure as they have challenges to Pro-life Amendment 1 and the state's ban on doctor-assisted suicide.

During the trial, witnesses from Planned Parenthood and Tennessee’s private abortion facilities testified. Below are highlights of their testimonies.

  • Dr. Sarah Wallett, former Chief Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and now Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, boasted of the “thousands” of abortions she’s done, and complained how difficult it is to find abortion doctors to work in Tennessee because the medical community shuns them and they have to deal with “abortion stigma.”

  • Dr. Wallet never referred to a ‘fetus’ or ‘baby’ only using terms “pregnancy matter”, “contents of uterus”, “pregnancy tissue”, “pass a pregnancy”, and “product of conception.”

  • Memphis Choices abortion facility director, Rebecca Terrell, testified that they were using a non-FDA protocol in dispensing RU-486, the abortion pill, prior to enactment of the waiting period. She admitted that she was unaware of any abortion patient who has expressed serious harm from enactment of the waiting period.

  • Terrell also testified that their “patient educators” are trained to “expect tears.” They are told to “reinforce positive aspects of patients concerns” and tell them, “don’t doubt yourself.”

  • Dr. Kenneth Goodman, University of Miami Director of Bioethics and Health Policy, testified that abortion is no different than any other medical procedure. He continued that having an abortion is no different than a dentist appointment.

  • Dr. Jessica Young testified as having performed more than 1,000 abortions including those at the now defunct Nashville Women's Center, Nashville and Knoxville Planned Parenthood facilities and as an instructor and provider of abortion at Vanderbilt University.

  • Dr. Young testified that a "waiting period" creates increased stress on women having undergone abortions. However, she states that Planned Parenthood does not follow up with clients after an abortion, keeps no records of such possible stress, and has no data to prove it. She admitted that no post-abortion woman has ever contacted her personally as their provider to express such stress regarding a "waiting period."

  • Pro-abortion sociologist Sheila Katz, Ph.d characterized TN as the 11th poorest state in which the waiting period creates an imbalance in the standard of living. According to pro-abortionists, it is a crime to be poor.

  • Dr. Antonia Biggs, of the University of California, San Francisco and the author of Women's Mental Health Suffers When Denied an Abortion, testified that waiting period laws hurt women and most women do not regret their abortion. She continued that most women are thinking about having an abortion before they even get pregnant.

  • From the Pro-life perspective, Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, testified that 25-40% of women seeking abortion arrive at the abortion facility undecided and through her research has found that information and time benefit women.

  • Dr. Coleman continued stating that the abortion procedure is different than other medical procedures, 2 biological systems exist before the procedure but only 1 after the abortion is completed.

We are thankful that the Informed Consent/48 Hour Waiting Period law was allowed to take effect while being challenged, thereby saving lives every day since 2015.

The trial concluded last Thursday, September 26, and Judge Friedman’s decision will likely be handed down in a few months. During this time, please pray diligently for Judge Friedman and the women and girls who are making a life or death decision this very moment. May they take the time, seek the truth and choose life for their babies.