Tenn. waiting period law reduced abortion rate by 6 percent, study finds

Bill Haslam
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam listens during the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, in this February 22, 2014, file photo. Agreeing there must be a 48-hour waiting period between the time a woman consults her doctor about an abortion and the time it can be performed, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the second of two major abortion regulation bills into law on May 18, 2015. |

A Tennessee law that mandates a 48-hour waiting period on an abortion led to a 6 percent decrease in abortions performed in the state, according to a new study.

The law, which was signed by then Governor Bill Haslam in 2015, is currently the subject of a legal challenge. Arguments in the suit were held last month before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who is expected to rule soon.

Titled “New evidence on the effects of mandatory waiting periods for abortion” and published last month, it was authored by Jason M. Lindo and Mayra Pineda-Torres of Texas A&M University.

Using data from the state health departments and Vital Statistics reports, the study found that while the waiting period law increased the number of second trimester abortions by 38 percent, it also saw a decrease in all abortions by 6 percent.

“While these are our best estimates of the effects of the [mandatory waiting periods] on abortion rates, we note that they should be viewed with some caution because of limited statistical power,” warned the researchers.

The study also found that the cost of obtaining an abortion increased by around $900 due to the law’s requirement for the additional counseling appointment.

“Delayed abortions can increase monetary costs for two main reasons. First, delays can increase the cost of the procedure which typically rise with gestational age,” they added.

“Second, delays can require women to travel to more distant providers, because providers vary in the types of procedures they offer and the gestational ages at which they offer them.”

In May 2015, Governor Haslam signed the waiting period law, making Tennessee the 27th state to implement a waiting period of some length for women seeking an abortion. 

The signing of the new law came months after Tennessee voters approved Amendment 1, which removed the right to an abortion from the state constitution.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, celebrated the overall pro-life movement progress in a statement released at the time.

“Women and girls considering abortion in our state deserve relevant details and adequate time to make fully informed decisions about the fate of their unborn child,” stated Harris, as reported by The Tennessean in 2015.

“We are grateful to the voters who approved Amendment 1 and to the public officials who have fulfilled their commitment to restore common-sense protections for women, girls and unborn children in our state.”

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