Federal judge issues temporary restraining order after Tennessee governor signs fetal heartbeat bill

Lee said new law makes Tennessee 'one of the most pro-life states in America'

Federal judge issues temporary restraining order after Tennessee governor signs fetal heartbeat bill
Gov. Bill Lee signs fetal heartbeat bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMC) - Governor Bill Lee signed a bill Monday he said is “arguably the most conservative, pro-life piece of legislation in the country,” but it wasn’t long before a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the new law from taking effect.

The Tennessee Senate passed the bill in mid-June with a vote split down party lines. The new law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

It also requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion and outlaws the procedure based on race, sex and disorder with few exceptions for medical emergencies.

In an unannounced Facebook Live Monday morning, Lee signed the bill into law, calling it an historic moment.

“Life is precious, and everything that is precious is worth protecting,” he said.

The governor thanked several members of the legislature for their work in passing the bill.

“With the signature of this bill, Tennessee is one of the most pro-life states in America,” said Lee.

Less than an hour later, Judge William Campbell issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the bill from taking effect immediately.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Tennessee filed a lawsuit in June after lawmakers sent the bill to the governor’s desk.

“Today’s important decision protects Tennesseans’ ability to access the medical care they need, including abortion,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU of Tennessee. “Especially in the midst of a global health crisis, lawmakers should realize that their continued attacks on access to abortion are particularly harmful to those struggling financially and those who already face significant barriers to health care – including people of color and people who live in rural areas.”

According to the order, the group is arguing the ban is unconstitutional, citing previous attempts at similar bans in other states that were overturned.

The temporary restraining order is set to expire at noon July 27, but a hearing is scheduled July 24 at which time the group will ask for a preliminary injunction.

Elsewhere Monday, a federal judge permanently blocked a similar law in Georgia that would’ve banned abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” was present.

According to one legal challenge, cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant.

The new ruling permanently prohibits Georgia from ever enforcing the 2019 bill.

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