NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A federal judge has blocked a Tennessee abortion ban which was deemed one of the most pro-life laws in the country.
U.S. District Judge William Campbell on Friday blocked the Tennessee law from being implemented. The law banned abortion once a heartbeat is detected, protected the lives of minority babies and those with genetic anomalies and required an ultrasound to be completed before an abortion.
The judge cited imprecision in the bill's language as well as the likelihood that portions of it would be found unconstitutional. His decision was binding but not definitive.
"This Court leaves debate about Roe, Casey and their progeny to the learned jurists on the Supreme Court, legal scholars, legislators and the public — a debate that remains lively and important," Campbell wrote in his decision. He added the measure would "immediately impact most patients in Tennessee who seek pre-viability abortions."
The legislation had been signed into law on July 13 by Republican governor Bill Lee, who was ebullient about it.
"It's our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community," said Lee as he signed the measure from inside his office. "With the signature of this bill, Tennessee is one of the most pro-life states in America."
But the judge, in further explaining his injunction, cited Supreme Court precedent:
The Tennessee General Assembly passed and Gov. Lee ultimately signed a law that criminalizes the provision of abortions in Tennessee once a fetal heartbeat is detected or when an abortion is sought for specified reasons. Applying binding Supreme Court precedent and the factors required for the extraordinary remedy of an injunction ... the court concludes that an injunction should issue.
The bill had been passed by the Tennessee Statehouse during the final hours of the annual legislative session on June 19 by a 23–5 party-line vote.
Proponents of legal prenatal murder were not happy with the bill. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued shortly before Lee signed the measure into law.
According to a press release from Matt Anderson, senior vice president of Greenlight Media Strategies, women of color are disproportionately affected by abortions bans. The ban specifically included protection of minority babies since they are disproportionately targeted and killed by abortion in the United States.
Along with the heartbeat portion of the law, the measure also made illegal an abortion motivated by a child's sex, race or diagnosis of Down syndrome; and for juveniles in custody of the Department of Children's Services. If an abortionist knew that any of these reasons were the motive for a woman choosing abortion, he could not have gone ahead legally with the life-ending procedure.
In his memorandum issued July 24, Campbell said vague language in the bill raised numerous questions. He wrote that a physician "attempting to comply with the statute must determine what it means to 'know' that his or her patient is seeking an abortion 'because of' the sex or race of the unborn child, or a diagnostic test indicating Down syndrome ... ."
Similar laws banning the killing of preborn children after heartbeat detection — which occurs around six weeks post-conception — were in place in Mississippi, Ohio and several other states, but have been struck down by the courts.
If the Tennessee law were to take effect in the future, a doctor who performs an illegal abortion would face a Class C felony.