Politics & Policy

Federal Judges Block Abortion Bans in Tennessee, Georgia

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Federal judges in Tennessee and Georgia blocked restrictive abortion bans in both states on Monday.

District Judge Steve Jones ruled unconstitutional Georgia’s “heartbeat” law, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, around six weeks of pregnancy. Jones previously temporarily blocked the law, which was never implemented, in October.

The law included exceptions for abortions in cases of rape and incest, provided the mother files a police report first. It also included exceptions for abortions after a fetal heatbeat can be detected if the unborn child is deemed non-viable or the mother’s life is at risk.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who signed the law in May of last year, said his administration will appeal the ruling.

“Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” Kemp said.

In Tennessee, District Judge William Campbell granted a temporary restraining order against the state’s abortion ban minutes after Republican Governor Bill Lee signed it into law. The governor touted his signing of the law on Monday, calling it “arguably the most conservative, pro-life piece of legislation in the country.”

Abortion providers including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to block the law after the Tennessee state legislature passed it last month.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated they will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, harm, loss, or damage if injunctive relief is not granted pending a preliminary injunction hearing. The Act will immediately impact patients seeking abortions and imposes criminal sanctions on abortion providers,” Campbell wrote in his order.

The law would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, similar to the Georgia law. Tennessee’s law went further, however, also prohibiting abortions in cases where the doctor is aware the mother is seeking the abortion because of the unborn child’s sex or race or because the fetus has a diagnosis of Down syndrome. It does not include exceptions for rape or incest, but does include an exception for when the mother’s life is in danger. Doctors who perform abortions in any of the prohibited cases would face felony charges. The law also imposed a host of other requirements on abortion doctors and clinics, including mandating that clinics display signs informing patients that reversing a chemical abortion may be possible.

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