Tennessee’s Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Law Is Signed, Then Blocked, In Less Than An Hour

Jul 14, 2020

Governor Bill Lee signs one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country into law Monday July 13, 2020. It was quickly blocked from going into effect by a federal judge pending a July 24 hearing.
Credit Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook

Tennessee’s newest restriction on abortions saw two major — and opposing — developments Monday.

Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

“With the signature of this bill,” Lee said during the Facebook Live event, with a blue Sharpie in hand, “Tennessee is one of the most pro-life states in America.”

However, less than an hour later, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect, citing the law placed “undue burden” on people seeking pre-viability abortions. The measure aims to prohibit abortions starting at around six weeks. That’s before most people know they’re pregnant, effectively blocking most abortions.

There is no exception for victims of rape or incest.

What sets the legislation apart from other so-called “heartbeat bills” is built-in language that protects it from being struck down in its entirety. If the ban is declared unconstitutional at six weeks, it extends to eight weeks. If it’s struck down again, it goes to 10 weeks, and so on up to 24 weeks.

Abortion opposition group Tennessee Right To Life says it is “fervently praying for this law’s success in the courts.”

The law will remain blocked until a July 24 hearing between the state and abortion rights advocates.