Tennessee Gov Signs Sweeping Pro-life Bill, is Instantly Blocked by Court

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs Pro-Life Bill

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed an omnibus pro-life bill into law Monday that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected alongside a range of other abortion restrictions and conditions, though it has already be enjoined from taking effect by a lawsuit.

The bill requires doctors to perform an ultrasound before an abortion and forbids them from going through with the abortion if a fetal heartbeat is found, WTVF reports. It also bans abortions specifically sought due to a child’s race, sex, or prenatal diagnosis of a disability such as Down syndrome.

It is the state’s “responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” Lee declared, adding that the new law would make Tennessee “one of the most pro-life states in America.”

The pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU’s Tennessee chapter, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), had already filed emergency lawsuits against the law, however, and once it was officially signed U.S. District Judge William Campbell granted a temporary restraining order against it taking effect, ABC News reports.

The groups opposing the law declared that it mean “nearly all abortions in Tennessee have been criminalized.” Campbell granted their injunction by claiming he was “bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions.” The bill took effect immediately upon being signed, but only remained in effect for an hour before Campbell blocked it.

The injunction was not unexpected, or even necessarily unwelcome, among pro-lifers, however. 

Many such laws, which ban abortion well before the Supreme Court’s viability threshold, have been passed across the country over the past year. They are generally not intended to ban abortion in the near term, but instead to provoke a legal battle that would hopefully reach the U.S. Supreme Court and instigate a review of Roe v. Wade, thereby potentially overturning decades of pro-abortion legal precedent and freeing the states to set their own abortion laws.

That said, this strategy’s prospects for success has recently been called into question after Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices last month in striking down abortion safety regulations in Louisiana, indicating that the nation’s highest court currently lacks five votes for a larger overhaul of America’s judicial status quo on abortion.