Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
Tennessee legislation that takes effect in January 2023 imposes restrictions on the dispensing of abortion-inducing pills. It doesn’t address or ban emergency contraceptives like Plan B.
The $50,000 fine is for doctors or anyone who provides abortion medication by mail. There is no criminal penalty for patients.
If the Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft majority opinion indicates it might, access to abortion would vary across states due to differing policies. Advocates of abortion rights are expressing concern that some states’ efforts will go further to curtail contraceptive use.
But has Tennessee already outright banned the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B?
Short answer, no.
But that’s what many people were left wondering after claims started circulating online that said the state recently outlawed emergency contraceptives and will now fine people who try to get the medication.
"Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it," read a tweet from Pam Keith, CEO at the Center for Employment Justice and 2020 Democratic nominee for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. (Keith lost to Republican Rep. Brian Mast.)
Tennessee did recently pass a law that restricts 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 — not induce abortions — after unprotected sex or when a birth control method has failed. The medication is available over-the-counter and does not require a prescription.
The legislation at the center of this claim, though, imposes strict restrictions on the dispensing of abortion pills. Signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee on May 5, it doesn’t address or ban emergency contraceptives.
The law includes a $50,000 penalty for doctors or anyone who dispenses abortion pills by mail. There is no criminal penalty for patients.
PolitiFact reached out to Keith for comment through her company’s website but did not hear back. However, on May 9, Keith tweeted that she made a mistake and deleted her original tweet.
"Hey 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 the proposed bans in Louisiana and Missouri. I have taken it down," Keith wrote.
Abortion pills refer to the medication option for abortion, usually taken in about the first 11 weeks of pregnancy. It involves a combination of two medicines — mifepristone and misoprostol — that are typically taken around 24 hours apart. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, the hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy, and misoprostol makes the uterus contract to complete the abortion.
The Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.
The legislation states that qualified medical clinicians are required to be physically present when abortion pills are given to patients. To lawfully receive abortion pills, a patient must visit a doctor, give consent, and then return to pick up the medication. Delivery of abortion pills by mail is prohibited.
According to the measure, the drugs can only be dispensed by qualified physicians, a category that does not include pharmacists.
The legislation explicitly states that this applies to abortion-inducing drugs.
"This is not what this bill is doing," said Akram Faizer, associate professor of law at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. "Anything that can be treated as contraceptive would not be affected by this legislation."
Legal experts say it’s not yet known whether states like Tennessee can restrict access to abortion pills in the wake of the FDA's 2021 decision to allow mail-delivery of the medication nationwide.
It would likely come down to what happens with Roe v. Wade. If the draft Supreme Court ruling overturning the legislation is finalized, states could set laws about how and when to allow abortions — including restrictions on abortion pills.
"State governments shouldn’t have jurisdiction over the mailing of things, that’s typically within federal jurisdiction," Faizer said. "But if the federal government loses its jurisdiction to enforce abortion rights, that’s where things might change."
Keith claimed on Twitter that Tennessee banned the Plan B emergency contraceptive and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it.
The legislation imposes restrictions on the dispensing of abortion pills, but it doesn’t ban emergency contraceptives like Plan B.
The $50,000 fine, meanwhile, is for anyone who provides abortion pills by mail. The measure exempts patients from criminal penalties.
We rate this claim False.
Twitter, post by Pam Keith, May 8, 2022
The Tennessean, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs law adding criminal penalties to abortion pill distribution via mail, May 6, 2022
PBS.org, Tennessee governor signs bill strictly regulating medication abortions, May 6, 2022
Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act, Accessed May 9, 2022 ‘
Mayo Clinic, Morning-after pill, Accessed May 9, 2022
New York Times, F.D.A. Will Permanently Allow Abortion Pills by Mail, Dec. 16, 2021
Phone interview, Akram Faizer associate professor of law at Lincoln Memorial University, May 9, 2022
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.