Federal Courts Block Pro-Life Laws in Georgia, Tennessee

Federal Courts Block Pro-Life Laws in Georgia, Tennessee

Two separate pro-life laws were blocked by federal judges on Monday. In Georgia, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones permanently blocked the state’s “heartbeat” law, while in Tennessee, U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell issued a temporary restraining order halting the implementation of pro-life legislation just 45 minutes after the governor signed the bill into law.

Georgia’s heartbeat law (HB 481) was signed in May 2019 and banned abortions if “the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat.” It also allowed parents to claim unborn babies as dependents on their taxes and include the unborn child in census data.

Jones had temporarily blocked the law in October at the urging of Georgia abortion providers and the American Civil Liberties Union. The ruling this week permanently enjoins the state from ever enforcing House Bill 481, with Jones arguing that the law violated the 14th Amendment.

“HB 481 violates the constitutional right to privacy which, in turn, inflicts per se irreparable harm on plaintiffs,” Jones wrote in a 67-page order filed Monday in court.

In response to the ruling, Gov. Brian Kemp said that his administration would appeal the decision.

“Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” Kemp said in a statement.

Similarly, Tennessee’s heartbeat law banned abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy and prohibited abortions based on race, sex or diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Gov. Bill Lee signed the pro-life bill into law at 11 a.m. on Monday. By 11:45 a.m. Judge Campbell blocked the state from enforcing.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU had filed a lawsuit against Tennessee in June, but Campbell waited to grant the injunction until the bill became law.

“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,” Campbell argued Monday.

“Governor Lee strongly believes we must protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there are none more vulnerable than the unborn,” said a spokesperson for Lee. “We look forward to defending this law in the courts to protect the dignity of every human life in Tennessee.”

Pro-life organization Live Action applauded Tennessee’s willingness to advocate for the unborn: “Protecting humans who have heartbeats should not be controversial in the United States,” the group posted on Facebook. “We must keep fighting until children—from the very moment of fertilization—are protected nationwide.”

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