Fact check: Tennessee law limits abortion pills, doesn't ban Plan B contraceptive

·4 min read

The claim: Tennessee banned Plan B pills and will impose a $50,000 fine on anyone who orders it

After a Supreme Court draft opinion in a case that could overturn Roe vs. Wade was leaked, the possibility of more restrictions on abortionhas sparked debate online.

Some social media users claim a recent law passed in Tennessee is restricting Plan B, an emergency contraceptive taken to prevent pregnancy.

"Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it," reads an Instagram post shared May 8 .

The post generated more than 1,400 likes in 10 days. Similar claims, including one Democratic congressional candidate Pam Keith shared, have amassed thousands of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.

But the claim is false.

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There is no evidence Tennessee is doing anything of the sort. The claim surfaced after legislation passed in the state that imposes new penalties on the distribution of medication abortion pills. It does not apply to Plan B pills, a spokesperson for the Tennessee General Assembly told USA TODAY.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

New law puts limits on distribution of abortion pill, imposes penalties

The claim stems from a misinterpretation of a bill Gov. Bill Lee signed May 5 that increases regulations on the distribution of abortion pills.

Currently, a Tennessee law requires that abortion medication be administered or dispensed to a pregnant woman "in the physical presence of her physician."

Bill HB 2416 expands on that by requiring a qualified physician to provide abortion medication to a patient after an in-person examination rather than by a pharmacist or through the mail after a telehealth visit, according to Molly Gormley, a spokesperson for Tennessee state Sen. Mike Bell, who authored the bill.

Under the new law, any distributor of abortion medication who violates the new provision will face a $50,000 fine or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 20 years. The new law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023, superseding current law, according to FactCheck.org.

Fact check: Plan B still legal in Missouri as Supreme Court considers fate of Roe v. Wade

The legislation does not apply to Plan B pills, which are not the same as abortion medication and can be bought over the counter in Tennessee, according to Gormley.

Plan B is an emergency contraceptive pill that, when taken within three days of unprotected sex, can prevent conception, Dr. Nancy Stanwood, of Yale New Haven Hospital, told USA TODAY.

Medication abortion, on the other hand, is used to disrupt an implanted pregnancy after conception. It is a regimen of two pills: mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone needed for pregnancy, and misoprostol, which stimulates bleeding and cramping that causes the uterus to expel the pregnancy, Stanwood said.

Experts told USA TODAY abortion by pill is expected to rise if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Tennessee implemented a trigger law in 2019 that would ban abortion in the state if the landmark ruling was overturned, according to the Tennessean.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Tennessee banned Plan B pills and will impose a $50,000 fine on anyone who orders the contraceptive. There is no evidence Tennessee has done anything of the sort. The claim surfaced after new legislation passed in the state that restricts the distribution of abortion medication and imposes penalties for violation of its terms. It does not apply to Plan B pills, which can be bought over the counter.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that Tennessee banned Plan B pills

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