Federal Court Blocks Tennessee Abortion Bans

Photo by News Channel 5 Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( July 27, 2020) – Tennessee’s law banning abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy is temporarily blocked while litigation continues.

A federal district court in Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of the new Tennessee law Friday, including a series of gestational age bans that would ban abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy, starting as early as six weeks.

The court also blocked a part of the law that bans aboriton based on a patient’s reason for seeking abortion, including reasons related to race, sex, or a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

“Abortion bans, especially those that ban the procedure before many people even know they are pregnant, threaten the health, rights, and lives of people of color disproportionately,” the ACLU of Tennessee said in a statement. “Additionally, ‘reason bans’ inflict further harm by perpetuating stigma around abortions and stereotypes of Black and Brown communities, Asian Americans, and poeple with disabilities.”

The court granted the preliminary injunction at the request of numerous abortion providers in the state represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the ACLU of Tennessee. Moments after Gov. Bill Lee signed the law on July 13, the court issued a restraining order blocking the abortion bans temporarily. Friday’s injunction provides longer-term relief, blocking the bans until the lawsuit is resolved.

Photo by News Channel 5 Nashvlle

In the decision, Judge William L. Campbell wrote “Applying binding Supreme Court precedent and the factors required for the extraordinary remedy of an injunction, the court concludes that an injunction should issue.”

Just three months ago, Gov. Lee attempted to ban abortion procedures during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by labeling abortion care as non-essential, despite opposition from leading national medical groups. In April, that attempt was blocked in court after a lawsuit was filed by the same organizations that litigated Friday’s case.

Last year alone, 25 abortion bans were enacted in 12 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Utah. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations responded by filing litigation to ensure abortion remains legal in all 50 states.

Tennessee has numerous additional abortion restrictions on the books, including a ban on the use of telehealth for medication abortion, a mandatory 48-hour waiting period, limits on when state and public insurance can cover abortion services, and a requirement that minors obtain parental consent. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood are litigating another case in the state challenging the 48 hour waiting period.

The case was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Tennessee on behalf of CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Tennessee and North Mississippi, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, carafem, and two abortion providers in Tennessee.

Gov. Lee says he’ll do “whatever it takes in court” to defend the ban. He told reporters earlier this month that it was “important to protect the lives of every Tennessean.”

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Brian Sullivan is a reporter for Out & About Nashville. He has served nearly 2 decades in the television industry, with over 20 years experience as a print and broadcast journalist. Sullivan is an Emmy Award Winning producer, writer, lobbyist, activist and marketing strategist. He is active in several campaigns raising awareness in addiction treatment, equality and mental healthcare. He received recognition as a Nashville Emerging Leader of the Year at the NELA Awards. He is an Executive Board Member of the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee, a member of DrugFree Wilco, the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition, the Memphis Area Prevention Alliance, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Facing Addiction, Fed Up!, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Center for Nonprofit Management, Music City Theatre Company, LGBTQI Nashvillians of Faith, Covenant of the Cross Ministries, Human Rights Campaign, HRC Nashville, Team Friendly Tennessee, Tennessee Equality Project, Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Wilson County Anti-Drug Coalition, National Fraternal Order of Police, the Nashville Filmmakers Guild and is an ordained Minister. Sullivan is a proud donor of the Memphis Hope House, Nashville Cares, Covenant Cupboard Food Pantry, and Second Harvest Food Bank. He has worked extensively on projects with several major networks including Fox News Network, CNN, Time Magazine, Washington Post, New York Times, Inside Edition and Mic.