Appeals court upholds block on Tennessee “heartbeat” law

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling which blocked a Tennessee law banning abortion at the detection of a “fetal heartbeat,” usually around six weeks gestation, Axios reports. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the block in the wake of Texas’ recent controversial law which bans abortion after six weeks.

The Tennessee legislation was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee in July 2020, but pro-choice advocates immediately filed suit to block it, Axios reports. The District Court then issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

Writing the majority opinion for the 6th Circuit Court, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey said the District court’s ruling “closely follows the precedents of our circuit and those of the Supreme Court… the law remains clear that if a regulation is a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion, it is invalid.” Under the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v Wade, abortion is permissible prior to viability, currently around 23 weeks.

Texas’ recent law banning abortion after six weeks is highly controversial not only because many women do not yet know they are pregnant at six weeks, but also because it seeks to bypass Roe v Wade by devolving responsibility for enforcing the law from the government to citizens: the law permits anyone, who may or may not be connected to the woman, to sue any person who helps a woman in any way (including by driving her) to get an abortion. The plaintiff is entitled to seek up to $10,000 from the person who has assisted the woman. The Texas law has raised concerns about “bounty hunters” preying on vulnerable women and about a precedent being set for a culture of vigilantism.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday that the US Department of Justice has filed a suit against Texas over its law. “[The government] has a duty to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to uphold the rule of law,” Garland said.

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