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New Tennessee abortion pill law doesn’t ban Plan B

May 9, 2022 GMT
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.  Lee has signed legislation that will strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate them. The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.   (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.  Lee has signed legislation that will strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate them. The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.   (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.  Lee has signed legislation that will strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate them. The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.   (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Lee has signed legislation that will strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate them. The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Lee has signed legislation that will strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate them. The measure will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

CLAIM: Newly signed legislation in Tennessee “banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The law imposes strict penalties for distributing abortion pills via mail or delivery services and also bars pharmacists from dispensing the drugs. It still allows doctors to provide the medicine in person. The law does not ban Plan B or emergency contraceptives used to reduce the risk of pregnancy after sex.

THE FACTS: A tweet spreading the erroneous information about the new law has spread widely in recent days, earning tens of thousands of shares and retweets. “Tennessee just banned Plan B and made it a crime punishable by a $50,000 fine to order it,” reads the tweet from Pam Keith, an attorney and Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Florida in 2020. But that’s not what the legislation does. Keith did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed HB 2416 into law last week.

As The Associated Press reported, the legislation further regulates how abortion pills can be distributed. The law requires that a medical clinician be physically present when such pills are distributed — and bars them from being delivered by mail or dispensed by a pharmacist. It adds harsh penalties for providers who violate the provisions, including potential felony charges or a fine of up to $50,000.

The bill specifically refers to “abortion-inducing drugs” that are provided with the aim of “terminating the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a patient.” That’s not the same as Plan B.

“Plan B medications are not at all the same as ‘abortion-inducing’ drugs,” said Dr. John Schorge, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Schorge noted in an email that Plan B medications are “basically oral contraceptives which in normal circumstances are given to regulate periods, prevent pregnancy and can have other health benefits.” They’re available as an emergency contraceptive to prevent pregnancy — sometimes referred to as a “morning after” option.

The office of state Rep. Debra Moody, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said in an emailed statement that the “Tennessee General Assembly did not ban Plan B. We passed a law banning mail-order abortions.”

“The new law simply says that a patient must meet in-person with a qualified physician in order to get a prescription for an abortion-inducing drug,” the statement said.

The legislation will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Use of abortion pills has been rising in the U.S. since 2000 when the FDA approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills, rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Two drugs are required. The first, mifepristone, blocks a hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy. A second drug, misoprostol, taken one to two days later, empties the uterus. Both drugs are available as generics and are also used to treat other conditions.

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Associated Press writer Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this story.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.