Friday, August 06, 2021

6th Circuit En Banc Upholds Tennessee Abortion Waiting Period

In a 9-7 en banc decision in Bristol Regional Women's Center, P.C. v. Slatery, (6th Cir., Aug. 5, 2021), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tennessee's 48-hour waiting period for abortions. Judge Thapar's majority opinion concluded:

Tennessee’s 48-hour abortion waiting period is facially constitutional. The law is supported by a rational basis, and it is not a substantial obstacle to abortion for a large fraction of women seeking previability abortions in Tennessee. And the plaintiffs failed to present any specific evidence to sustain their as-applied challenge. We thus reverse the district court’s decision and remand for entry of judgment in Tennessee’s favor on these claims.

Two judges joined in a concurring opinion.  The primary dissenting opinion was written by Judge Moore, who said in part:

Rather than plunge into the vast pool of evidence compiled in the district court ... the majority dips a toe and recoils. Speaking vaguely of “inconveniences,”... “logistical challenges,” ... and “increased costs,”... but shirking the specifics that the district court explored in exhaustive depth, the majority improvises a sanitized account of the record free of uncomfortable realities. In whitewashing the record, the majority has crystalized what has been clear at least since it agreed to hear this case initially en banc without a principled basis: this case was dead on arrival.... An honest look at the record compels but one conclusion: a law that peddles in stigma, forces women into unnecessary and invasive surgical procedures, and forces low-income women to sacrifice basic necessities for themselves and their families in order to obtain an abortion is nothing if not an undue burden.

Judge Gibbons also filed a dissenting opinion. The Hill reports on the decision.