Clinics Courts Reproductive Choice

Judge Temporarily Blocks Tennessee Abortion Ban

A federal judge temporarily blocked Tennessee’s abortion law on Friday. The law – or “heartbeat bill” – would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.

The bill was previously stopped through a temporary restraining order by District Judge William L. Campbell less than an hour after being signed into law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood were among the groups that filed the lawsuit against the bill. The temporary restraining order was set to expire by July 27.

The ruling Friday granted a preliminary injunction on the bill, meaning the state won’t be able to implement the ban while it is being tried in court.

Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said of the bill: “As Tennessee and the rest of the country grapple with the dueling public health crises of systemic racism and COVID-19, relitigating the constitutional right to abortion is the last thing politicians should be wasting valuable time and resources on… Let’s be clear — abortion bans are part of a larger, racist public health infrastructure that systematically forces people of color to navigate more barriers just to get the health care they need.”

The Tennessee law was set to take action immediately after passage. Along with banning abortion after fetal heartbeat detection – which can occur as early as six weeks, and before many people know they are pregnant – the law also bans abortions due to sex/race or diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as for juveniles within the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. The bill offers an exception in the case of life endangerment, but not in the cases of rape or incest. If a doctor performs an abortion under the law, they would face a Class C felony charge.

The Governor of Tennessee Bill Lee has boasted the ban to be the most conservative in the nation, and many lawmakers see it as a potential challenge to Roe. V. Wade.

“As the deep roots and tragedies of white supremacy are laid bare, and the pandemic exposes long-ignored health inequities, these anti-abortion lawmakers chose to utilize the state’s limited resources to defend clearly unconstitutional abortion bans that prey on stereotypes, disproportionately harm communities of color, and further entrench systemic racism,” said Jessica Sklarsky, the lead attorney on the case.

Sources: Tennessean 07/27, Reuters 07/27, New York Times 07/27, Feminist Majority Foundation Newswire 07/27

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