NASHVILLE (AP) — Opponents to a Tennessee law requiring women to wait 48 hours before getting an abortion argue that such restrictions help perpetuate negative stereotypes about gender.
The argument is part of a lengthy lawsuit challenging the legality of the waiting period rule, which Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Statehouse passed in 2015.
“The act thus violates the Equal Protection Clause by restricting women’s ability to make autonomous, voluntary decisions concerning their reproductive lives and their medical care, while no such restrictions are imposed on medical decision-making by men,” attorneys wrote on behalf of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics in an Aug. 16 pretrial brief.
The case is moving forward as Tennessee lawmakers are looking to join national efforts to enforce even stricter abortion restrictions despite warnings from critics that such actions will likely not pass legal muster.
Republicans have recently tossed around proposals to ban abortions as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant, but such efforts have faced pushback among legislative leaders concerned about the costs of defending such a law unsuccessfully in court.
Currently, 34 states require women receive counseling before an abortion and 27 states require women to wait a specific amount of time, according to the Guttmacher Institute — a think tank that supports abortion rights.
Only eight states, including Tennessee, prolong the waiting period longer than 24 hours.
After years of slowly navigating through the legal system, the Tennessee case is scheduled to go to trial in federal court in September.
“As plaintiffs will show at trial, requiring women seeking abortions to first receive certain state-mandated information and then undergo a mandatory, state-imposed delay discriminates on the basis of sex and sends the message that women are not competent, capable decision-makers,” the brief continued.
Meanwhile, the state argues the ban allows women to have enough time make a competent decision over whether to have an abortion.
“The waiting period furthers the state’s interest in protecting fetal life by offering prospective abortion patients an opportunity to make a different choice,” wrote Republican Attorney General Herbert Slatery III in the state’s pretrial brief filed the same day as the plaintiffs.
“Both the Supreme Court and this Circuit have made it clear that waiting period laws will be upheld so long as they do not unduly burden a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.”
In 2015, former GOP Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a series of new abortion restrictions. The first required women seeking abortions to get in-person counseling from a doctor and then wait at least 48 hours before being able to receive the procedure. The second required abortion clinics to be certified as outpatient surgery centers. The bills were enacted just a few years after Tennessee told doctors performing abortions that they must have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Those Tennessee laws immediately faced lawsuits but the litigation was put on hold as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a separate challenge in Texas regarding admitting privileges and surgery center certification requirements. The high court eventually ruled such requirements were illegal.
Now, opponents are hoping for a similar result surrounding the waiting periods.
Woman charged with
scalding toddler’s feet
DAYTON (AP) — Police say a Tennessee woman accused of scalding the feet of a toddler has been charged with aggravated child abuse.
Rhea County Sheriff’s Detective Rocky Potter told news outlets that hospital officials called authorities on Aug. 11 saying a 2-year-old girl had been brought in with burns that didn’t appear to be accidental. He said he determined through interviews that the child was burned as a punishment by a family member who was watching her. Authorities say Jennifer Vaughn was arrested Monday.
The girl’s mother, Brittany Smith, says the burns were so bad that skin grafts may not work. She says her daughter is recovering at home now, but will require more surgeries.
Commentator jailed for not paying child support
NASHVILLE — Conservative political commentator and former congressional candidate Steve Gill has been jailed in Tennessee after he allegedly failed to pay $170,000 in child support to his ex-wife as ordered by a judge.
News outlets report Gill was booked into the Williamson County jail Tuesday evening. Williamson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sharon Puckett says his bond is $170,000 — the amount he owes in child support.
His ex-wife sued in January for the cost of supporting their children, including medical care and college expenses. Williamson County Judge James Martin ordered Gill in May to pay his wife and gave him 10 days to do so.
The WLAC radio show host owns a consulting firm and co-founded an online right-wing website.
Man indicted on murder charge in toddler’s death
PLEASANTVILLE — A Tennessee man has been indicted on a charge of murder in the death of a toddler nearly 20 years ago.
WTVF-TV reports a Maury County grand jury indicted 47-year-old Christopher Lee Goodwin on Monday in the death of 15-month-old Jeffry Kelton Skaggs. Prosecutor Brent Cooper told the station Goodwin was arrested Tuesday.
Cooper reopened the case after getting elected in 2014. Skaggs death in 2001 was originally ruled an accident, but the boy’s body was exhumed last year for a second autopsy, and it was ruled a homicide.
The prosecutor says he thinks Skaggs died from either child abuse or neglect and that Goodwin was alone with him when he suffered a fatal head injury.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Goodwin has an attorney.
Police: Naked man fleeing officers fatally crashes
TULLAHOMA — Authorities in Tennessee say a naked man who was causing a disturbance at a grocery store was killed in a crash fleeing officers.
News outlets report Tullahoma Police responded to an incident involving a nude man at a food store early Wednesday morning. A Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report says police pursued 29-year-old Lawrence Bean’s car, but ended the chase due to high speeds.
Police say they lost contact with Bean, but his car later went off the road and slammed into a mailbox, trees and some rocks. Bean’s car then hit a parked vehicle and flipped onto its roof.
Highway patrol said Bean was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The crash is being investigated.
No details were provided on the incident at the grocery store.