A US federal judge for the Middle District of Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of Tennessee’s so-called “heartbeat” abortion ban on Friday.
The ban, signed into law by Tennessee governor Bill Lee on July 13, would ban abortions performed after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. Heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, often well before a woman even knows she is pregnant. It is among the most stringent abortion bans in the country, and was subject to an immediate temporary restraining order.
District Court Judge William Campbell Jr. found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to sections 216 and 217 of the law. Section 216 bans abortion after detection of the heartbeat as well as at several other stages of pregnancy, while section 217 bans an abortion sought for reasons of the sex, race, or disability of the fetus. He found that “[s]ection 216 violates long-standing Supreme Court precedent prohibiting bans on pre-viability abortions that this Court is bound to follow,” while section 217 was “unconstitutionally vague.” Those sections of the bill are now enjoined pending trial.
Governor Lee has previously declared that the state will defend the bill, “whatever it takes.”