The claim: Tennessee banned Plan B pills and will impose a $50,000 fine on anyone who orders it
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 .
But the claim is false.
Follow us on Facebook! Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks
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.
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.
Our fact-check sources:
- Dr. Nancy Stanwood, May 9, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Molly Gormley, May 10, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Tennessee General Assembly, accessed May 10, HB2416 ACTIONS
- Justia US Law, accessed May 10, TN Code § 63-6-241 (2020)
- Politico, May 3, Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows
- USA TODAY, May 7, Abortion by pill figures to rise if Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade
- Tennessean, May 6, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs law adding criminal penalties to abortion pill distribution via mail
- Miami Herald, May 5, How are abortion pills different from Plan B? What to know after Supreme Court leak
- CNN, May 10, Fact check: Tennessee didn’t ban Plan B morning-after pill
- Tennessee Department of Health, accessed May 11, Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-6-241
- Reuters, May 9, Fact Check-Tennessee bill on abortion medication did not ban or criminalize ‘Plan B’
- Tennessean, May 9, Fact check: A new Tennessee abortion law does not ban Plan B, ‘morning-after’ pills
- FactcCheck.org, May 17, Plan B Pills Still Legal in Tennessee and Missouri, Contrary to Social Media Claims
- USA TODAY, May 3, Supreme Court verifies authenticity of leaked opinion in abortion case but says decision not final
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.