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VOL. 44 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 25, 2020

Tennessee prosecutors at odds over abortion law enforcement

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee prosecutors are at odds over whether to enforce a new law that requires abortion providers to tell their patients it may be possible to reverse the action of abortion medication half-way through the procedure. Doctors who do not comply could face felony charges, fines and lawsuits.

In a Thursday filing, Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk wrote that he does not believe the law is constitutional and does not intend to enforce it.

"I will not prosecute any woman who chooses to have a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy or any medical doctor who performs this procedure at the request of their patient," Funk declared in a court filing.

His filing came in response to an invitation by U.S. District Judge William Campbell to the four district attorneys who are defendants in the lawsuit to declare that they would not prosecute doctors who uphold the law by reciting the state-mandated advisory on abortion reversal but also tell patients they do not agree that medication abortions can be reversed.

The state attorney general has argued that the new law does not violate the doctors' First Amendment rights to free speech because they are free to voice their disagreement with the state-mandated advisory. Several abortion clinics are suing over the new law, which goes into effect Oct. 1. They claim the idea that abortions can be reversed has no basis in medical science. They have asked Judge Campbell to place a temporary hold on the law while their case works its way through the courts.

By inviting the district attorneys to declare they would not prosecute doctors for telling patients they disagree with the abortion-reversal advisory, Campbell seemed to hint that the declarations might make him less likely to suspend the new law.

In declarations filed earlier this week, three of the four district attorneys stopped just short of that declaration.

"The informed consent provision is silent regarding criminal liability for an abortion provider who provides the required disclosures but expresses disagreement," state the identical declarations from the district attorneys in Shelby, Knox and Wilson counties.

According to Funk's declaration, the state Attorney General declined to file it with the others so he filed separately. Gov. Bill Lee took issue with Funk's position. Without naming Funk, Lee tweeted on Thursday, "A district attorney purposefully disregarding current, duly enacted laws by the legislature is a grave matter that threatens our justice system and has serious consequences."

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