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Federal judge blocks Tennessee abortion restrictions

Federal judge blocks Tennessee abortion restrictions
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A federal judge in Tennessee on Friday blocked a state law that would have imposed a number of abortion restrictions.

Judge William Campbell, a Trump appointee, of the Middle District of Tennessee, issued a preliminary injunction on a law that would have required doctors performing drug-induced abortions to inform patients that the procedure could be reversed, and banned the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could occur six weeks into a pregnancy before a mother even knows they are with child. 

A temporary restraining order was issued by the court last year. 

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Campbell ruled that “the terms ‘reverse’ and ‘reversing’ in this mandated message render it untruthful and/or misleading” and noted that “there is no information about the identity and/or qualifications of those providers who will be administering ‘reversal’ treatment.” 

The ruling also pointed out that the Tennessee law imposes criminal penalties on those who violate it and that “the public interest will not be harmed by preserving the status quo.”

Campbell’s decision is the latest defeat for abortion opponents, who saw a South Carolina law that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected blocked just a day after it was signed. 

Abortion rights advocates hailed the ruling as a victory for both doctors and patients. 

“This law is a disturbing free speech violation, and we are glad the court recognized that today. Doctors have free speech rights — just like everyone does — and forcing them to lie to their patients violates those rights," said Michelle Moriarty, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Patients should be able to trust that their doctors are giving them accurate, relevant information that is supported by reliable medical evidence. There is no such thing as abortion ‘reversal’ and we cannot have patients making health care decisions based on false information."

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“This decision is a victory for patients, ensuring that they can continue to receive factual and clear information from their personal doctors while our lawsuit proceeds," added Thomas Castelli, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. "Everyone should be able to get the care they need, including an abortion, without politicians interfering and trying to force physicians to mislead patients. We will continue to fight this dangerous law until it is struck down for good."

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The Tennessee law is one of several passed across the country seeking to ban abortions at the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be heard.

Despite a string of court defeats dismissing the legislation, abortion opponents have pushed forward with comparable laws in part to spark a court battle they hope could wind up in the Supreme Court, which they are pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion across the U.S.