Abortion & Heartbeat Bills: Tennessee Files Appeal in Lawsuit over Pro-Life Law

In July, Tennessee governor Bill Lee signed a “heartbeat bill” that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Less than an hour after that law took effect, a federal judge blocked it, siding with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“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,” wrote U.S. district judge William L. Campbell at the time, adding, “The time-sensitive nature of the procedure also weighs in favor of injunctive relief pending a preliminary injunction hearing.”

Earlier this week, officials in Tennessee filed an appeal in federal court, seeking to reverse Campbell’s preliminary injunction, which blocks the state from implementing the law while the legal challenge unfolds.

In the appeal — filed by Tennessee’s attorney general, state health-department officials, and local attorneys general in Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville — the state argues that the earlier court decision was wrong to emphasize the harm to plaintiffs rather than consider the possible harms to the defendants.

“This Court improperly discounted the harm to the State and the public interest that comes from broadly enjoining the enforcement of laws enacted with overwhelming support by the elected representatives of the citizens of Tennessee,” the appeal argues.

The case will eventually reach the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the abortion-advocacy groups that filed the initial lawsuit had not filed a response to the state’s appeal by earlier this week.

Tennessee is one of several states that have passed heartbeat bills over the course of the last year. All of those laws have faced legal challenge from abortion providers and, thus far, courts have either struck down those laws or prevented them from taking effect as the lawsuits unfold.

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