NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee signed a bill into law Thursday that prevents patients from getting abortion-inducing medicine in the mail. It places criminal and civil penalties for violations.
The bill, S.B. 2281, was sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R - District 9). It is named the "Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act." It was discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee in early March, with a proposed amendment.
That amendment added the possibility for civil and criminal lawsuits against people who violate it. It would also specifically prevent pharmacists and physicians from prescribing the medicine over the phone or online, and would also require people to get abortion-inducing medicine prescribed from a doctor's office, instead of from a pharmacy.
The law requires patients who may need abortion-inducing medicine to be examined by physicians in person. Healthcare providers need to verify that the person is pregnant. If the patient's blood type is Rh-negative, they would need to offer RhoGAM which can help women carry pregnancies to term healthily.
The law also requires physicians to tell patients they may see products of the pregnancy after the medicine is given. It also requires the abortion-inducing medicine to be given by a qualified physician who also needs to be credentialed to handle possible complications, including emergency transfers.
Physicians can also have a signed agreement with an associated physician who is credentialed to handle complications. Patients must be given the name and phone number of that physician.
Patients also need to schedule a follow-up visit between a week or two weeks after the medicine is given. During that visit, physicians need to verify that the person is no longer pregnant and assess if they are bleeding excessively.
The law also specifies that abortion-inducing medicine can not be given on school grounds. If a minor needs abortion-inducing medicine, the law requires they get consent from a parent before it is given.
However, minors will not need consent from their parents if they are at risk of dying or if they face severe physical injuries. It specifically does not allow minors to get the medicine if they face psychological or emotional impairments.
The law also requires the state to prepare materials that direct people to an organization that tells women about abortion-reversing options. It also requires physicians to submit reports whenever they give abortion-inducing medicine.
Senator Raumesh Akbari (D - Memphis) previously asked a supporter of the law why they felt it was needed during a committee.
"The purpose of this bill, this is an incredibly complicated medication that comes with complications and possible side-effects for the mother, on top of terminating the life of the child inside her womb," said Will Brewer, a lobbyist from the Tennessee Right to Life group. "The intent of this bill is to have it provided in a doctor's office to make it as safe as possible."
It passed the committee with seven 'yes' votes and two 'no' votes.
It passed the House of Representatives on April 14 with 68 'yes' votes and 20 'no' votes. It also passed the Senate and was signed by Governor Lee on May 5.
The bill was signed as communities across the U.S. and in Tennessee reeled after a draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court was published online. That opinion would effectively overrule Roe v. Wade, activating the state's trigger laws that effectively ban abortion treatments.
Since the opinion was a draft, the final opinion could change in the coming weeks or months.