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Federal Judge issues preliminary injunction against new pro-life Tennessee law

by | Jul 29, 2020

“Governor remains committed to defending this law in the courts”

By Dave Andrusko

Earlier this month, when pro-life Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee vowed he would do “whatever it takes in court” to protect the state’s new pro-life law, he had to know that District Judge William L. Campbell would double down in his  resistance.

And, on July 25, that’s just what Judge Campbell did.

Less than two weeks before–on July 13–Campbell signed a temporary restraining order less than an hour after the governor signed the bill into law.

Then, on Friday, Campbell upped the ante by issuing a preliminary injunction barring the law from being implemented. 

“The temporary restraining order was set to expire July 27 pending a further court order,” the Tennessean’s Mariah Timms reported. “Parties agreed to have Campbell decide the question based on filings, avoiding the need for a hearing.” 

Why did the state agree? Clearly because Campbell had already made his sentiments abundantly clear, so why waste time on a hearing?

Perhaps Judge Campbell’s attitude was best captured in this snarky observation: “Neither Defendants nor the public have a strong interest in enforcing an unconstitutional statute.”

Gillum Ferguson, a spokesperson for Gov. Lee, told Timms, “Governor Lee believes strongly that every life is sacred and must be protected, especially the lives of the unborn.” He added, “While today’s ruling is unfortunate, the governor remains committed to defending this law in the courts and defending the right to life of all Tennesseans.” 

As we’ve  reported previously, Gov. Lee described the new law as  “arguably the most conservative, pro-life piece of legislation in the country.” Kimberlee Kruesi, of the Associated Press, noted “When he first unveiled the proposal in January, Lee stood with dozens of Republican lawmakers inside the Capitol touting the bill was a top priority for his administration.”

Here is a summary of the new law as compiled by  the Tennessean’s Natalie Allison.

 Abortions are banned except to save the mother’s life

  • If the doctor knows that the woman is seeking an abortion because of the child’s sex or race.
  • If the doctor knows the woman is seeking an abortion due to  a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
  • After the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected
  • For juveniles in custody of the Department of Children’s Services, including removing the current option to petition a judge for permission.

The legislation also 

  • “Require[s] that abortion clinics post a sign in the waiting room and in patient rooms informing people that it may be possible to reverse a chemical abortion.”

If the six-week ban is stricken, the legislation goes on to “automatically enact abortion bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation,” according to Allison.

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