Challenge to TN abortion laws put on hold

A legal challenge to three Tennessee abortion laws has been put on hold pending the outcome of a Texas case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could set a new precedent for abortion restrictions, reports The Tennessean.

The operators of three abortion clinics — The Women’s Center in Nashville, the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health and the Bristol Regional Women’s Center — filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville in June challenging a trio of Tennessee abortion laws. They include a 2015 requirement that clinics performing 50 or more surgical abortions each year be regulated as ambulatory surgical care centers and imposed a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for women after required abortion counseling, also enacted in 2015.

The Tennessee suit also challenges a 2012 law requiring physicians performing abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. That law has forced the closure of two Tennessee abortion clinics.

“The standards expected to be addressed by the Supreme Court will be critical for developing and evaluating the relevant evidence in this case,” lawyers for the state and the Tennessee clinics noted in their joint request for a temporary halt to the proceedings, which was granted by U.S. District Senior Judge Kevin Sharp.

On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a Texas case challenging two laws “substantially similar” to those the Tennessee clinics are seeking to overturn. A decision is expected by June.

That case, known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, involves a similar physician-admitting requirement and a measure requiring Texas clinics to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical care center. The Texas case does not involve a challenge to mandatory waiting periods, but lawyers in the Nashville case noted that the “Supreme Court may well provide further guidance on how to apply the undue burden test that will bear on the constitutional analysis of this restriction.”