Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law on Thursday that increases criminal penalties for anyone found to be distributing chemical abortive pills through either telehealth programs or the mail.
The Tennessean reported that this new legislation will prohibit any remote distribution of chemically abortive pharmaceuticals. However, the law will not prohibit the prescription of such substances in person by a physician.
After prescribing chemical abortives to patients, physicians are not required to monitor them during or after they take the drugs, but they are responsible for a ensuring a follow-up appointment with the patient within two weeks. Should this procedure not be followed, the legislation stipulates that they will be committing a Class E felony punishable by a fine up to $50,000.
Chemical abortive pills are increasingly common among women seeking to terminate early-term pregnancies up to 10 weeks. In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the delivery of these drugs, along with telehealth being allowed to dispense the pills amid access concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists previously endorsed chemical abortions as a safe procedure.
According to the most recent available data, more than 75% of abortions in Tennessee occurred within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2018.
The new Tennessee legislation mirrors pro-life initiatives that have gained traction across the U.S. in recent months following the FDA’s approval of chemical abortive distribution and in the days since a draft majority opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court leaked indicating that the nation’s highest court was preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The leaked draft decision comes from a case pertaining to a challenge to a pro-life law in Mississippi.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement confirming the authenticity of the leaked draft opinion. Roberts said that the draft opinion was not final and that the court’s consensus could change.
In 2019, the state of Tennessee passed a law that would automatically ban abortion in the state if the Supreme Court overturns or alters Roe v. Wade. The law would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, while the women seeking abortions would be exempt from prosecution.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a leftist nonprofit organization that is, according to its website, “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide,” more than 20 states are prepared to implement additional abortion restrictions should Roe v. Wade be overturned.