Tennessee has banned the mailing of abortion pills, not emergency contraceptives like Plan B

If the Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft majority opinion indicates, access to abortion would vary from state to state due to differing policies. Abortion rights advocates fear that some states’ efforts are going further to reduce contraceptive use.

But has Tennessee ever outright banned the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B?

Short answer, no.

But that’s what many people wondered after claims began circulating online that the state recently banned emergency contraceptives and will now fine people who try to get the drugs.

“Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a $50,000 fined felony to order it,” read a tweet from Pam Keith, CEO of the Center for Employment Justice and 2020 Democratic candidate. for Florida’s 18th congressional district. (Keith lost to Republican Representative Brian Mast.)

Tennessee recently passed a law that restricted access to certain medications, but it did not involve Plan B. Known as the morning after pill, Plan B is emergency contraception used to prevent pregnancy – and not cause abortions – after unprotected sex or during childbirth. the control method failed. The drug is available over the counter and does not require a prescription.

The legislation at the center of this claim, however, imposes strict restrictions on the distribution of abortion pills. Signed by Republican Governor Bill Lee on May 5, it does not address or ban emergency contraceptives.

The law provides for a $50,000 fine for doctors or anyone who distributes abortion pills through the mail. There is no penal sanction for patients.

PolitiFact reached out to Keith for comment through his company’s website, but received no response. However, on May 9, Keith tweeted that she made a mistake and deleted her original tweet.

“Hi all. I tweeted something about a change in Tennessee law criminalizing a component of women’s health care that I understood to be similar to proposed bans in Louisiana and Missouri. ‘ve withdrawn,” Keith wrote.

Abortion pills refer to the medical option for abortion, usually taken during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy. It is a combination of two drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – which are usually taken about 24 hours apart. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, the hormone needed to maintain pregnancy, and misoprostol causes the uterus to contract to complete the abortion.

The Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act takes effect on January 1, 2023.

Legislation dictates that qualified medical clinicians must be physically present when abortion pills are administered to patients. To legally receive abortion pills, a patient must see a doctor, give consent, and then return for the medication. The delivery of abortion pills by post is prohibited.

According to the measure, drugs can only be dispensed by qualified doctors, a category that does not include pharmacists.

The legislation explicitly states that this applies to drugs that induce abortion.

“That’s not what this bill does,” said Akram Faizer, an associate professor of law at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. “Anything that can be treated as a contraceptive would not be affected by this legislation.”

Legal experts say it’s not yet clear whether states like Tennessee can restrict access to abortion pills following the FDA’s 2021 decision to allow courier delivery of the drug nationwide.

It would probably boil down to what would happen with Roe v. Wade. If the Supreme Court’s draft decision striking down the legislation is finalized, states could establish laws on how and when to allow abortions, including restrictions on abortion pills.

“State governments shouldn’t have jurisdiction over sending things, that’s generally federal jurisdiction,” Faizer said. “But if the federal government loses jurisdiction to enforce abortion rights, that’s where things could change.”

Our decision

Keith claimed on Twitter that Tennessee had banned the Plan B emergency contraceptive and made it a felony punishable by a $50,000 fine for ordering it.

The law imposes restrictions on the distribution of abortion pills, but it does not ban emergency contraceptives like Plan B.

The $50,000 fine, meanwhile, is for anyone who delivers abortion pills through the mail. The measure exempts patients from criminal penalties.

We rate this claim as false.

RELATED: Ask PolitiFact: What Would Ending Roe Mean for Abortion Pill Access?

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