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Gov. Lee signs law criminalizing mail-order abortion pills

Abortion Pill
Posted at 6:10 PM, May 05, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation Thursday that would make it a crime for doctors to prescribe mail-order abortion bills.

If convicted - a physician could face up to a $50,000 fine.

As written, the law would apply penalties to a manufacturer, supplier, pharmacy or a physician providing an abortion pill to someone through the mail or other delivery service. A spokesperson for the bill's sponsor said the goal is to make sure the pills aren't available to patients who have not seen a doctor in person.

"A qualified physician providing an abortion-inducing drug must examine the patient in-person and, prior to providing an abortion-inducing drug verify and determine certain information, as specified in this bill, and inform the patient that the patient may see the remains of the unborn child in the process of completing the abortion," the language stated.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates released statements around the issue, Friday.

The president and CEO of the Tennessee and North Mississippi chapter, Ashley Coffield, said the law is a political move.

"Medication abortion by mail and telehealth was already banned in Tennessee; this new law, which increases penalties, is nothing more than a ploy by Gov. Lee to gain attention in this fraught moment," said Coffield.

Doctors who work with pregnant patients said taking the access of these drugs away could endanger women who experience complications.

"Someone who has an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that has implanted itself outside of the uterus, this medication is something that, we as healthcare providers, would prescribe early on in that ectopic, to prevent that woman from having life threatening hemorrhaging and dying," said Dr. Katrina Green. "So, taking this option taken away could lead to deaths here in Tennessee."

Dr. Green also said the medication is used to help women complete miscarriages.

She believes the state is using the law as a way to make sure no one is getting abortion medication in the state through some sort of legal loophole.

This law was drafted after the FDA approved mail-order abortion drugs for pregnant women in December of 2021.

The topic of abortion has been on the minds of Tennesseans this week with the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers and the public learned of the potential change after Politico published a leak of a majority draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2019, Tennessee placed several laws on the books around abortion.

Right now - anyone in Tennessee seeking an abortion — can't have one on the basis of sex, race or Down Syndrome. Before performing any abortion, the doctor is required to do an ultrasound. Those images must be made available to the woman and she must listen to the fetal heartbeat.

On top of that, Tennessee has what's called a trigger law which means if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 30 days later all abortions will be illegal in the state. The only exception is for the life of the woman. There are no exceptions in the law for rape or incest.

This bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.