Ruling on ‘heartbeat bill’ will come after Lee signs

    Planned Parenthood logo.
    Planned Parenthood logo.

    A federal judge in Nashville on Wednesday said he will wait to rule on a request by Tennessee’s abortion providers to temporarily halt a new ‘heartbeat’ abortion measure until it is signed by Gov. Bill Lee.

    The measure, approved by state lawmakers last week, bans most abortions after the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks in a pregnancy. If enacted in this form, the ban would be among the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. 

    The measure also has built-in contingencies to allow for bans to kick in later in a pregnancy, a “ladder” approach designed to allow a judge to rule a later ban is constitutional if the heartbeat ban is not. 

    Abortion clinics who filed suit were seeking a temporary halt from the court, saying they feared they would have to cease providing abortions the moment Lee signed the bill. 

    Neither Lee nor Lieut. Gov. Randy McNally has yet signed the bill, but the governor backs the measure.

    The court directed the seven abortion providers who filed suit to notify the court when the bill becomes law. “The Court will issue a ruling on the pending motion at that time,” Judge William Campbell, Jr. wrote.