Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an abortion ban on Monday that was quickly blocked by a temporary restraining order issued from the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The plaintiffs in Memphis Center for Reproductive Health et al. v. Herbert Slatery et. al., filed a motion requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit the enforcement of Tennessee’s pre-viability abortion ban.
Tennessee’s abortion ban makes it a Class C felony to perform or induce an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The ban also criminalizes an abortion when the “child is six weeks gestational age or older.” Lastly, the ban criminalizes a person who performs an abortion, knowing that the woman was seeking an abortion because of the child’s sex, race, or prenatal diagnosis indicating Down syndrome.
Judge William Campbell granted the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order, explaining that the “plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the restrictions in Sections 39-15-216 and 39-15-217 are unconstitutional under current law.” Campbell went on to further justify the injunction by adding that “the Act will immediately impact patients seeking abortions and imposes criminal sanctions on abortion providers.”
Campbell also wrote that the court would analyze Tenessee’s abortion ban under the US Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Currently, courts must employ an “undue burden analysis” to determine whether the effect of the ban is to “place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” The Supreme Court has previously defined viability as “the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb.” The plaintiffs claim that viability occurs no earlier than 23 weeks from the woman’s last menstrual period, which would make Tenessee’s pre-viability ban unconstitutional.
The court’s restraining order is set to expire on July 27th, and the next hearing is set for July 24th.