Judges Block Six-Week Abortion Bans in Georgia and Tennessee

Federal judges blocked six-week abortion bans in Georgia and Tennessee on Monday, a major victory for reproductive justice in states that have previously significantly threatened reproductive and sexual health services.

Judges Block "Heartbeat Bans" in Georgia and Tennessee
(VCU Capital News Service)

The blocked so-called “heartbeat bans” prohibit abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat—which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy—and were passed in the Georgia state legislature in 2019 and Tennessee last month. The devastating bans affected many women who were not yet aware of their pregnancies.

Similar bills were passed in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio—all of which were stopped by court actions. 

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights have challenged the “heartbeat bans.”

“No one should have to live in a world where their body and reproductive decision-making is controlled by the state,” Monica Simpson, the top plaintiff in the lawsuit, explained.

The bill in Tennessee recognized limited exceptions in order to protect the lives of women, but the state notably did not include instances of rape or incest in those exceptions. Georgia, on the other hand, did consider cases of rape or incest as viable exceptions. 

Reproductive rights policy has been making headlines lately—most recently, the block by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on a Louisiana law that would restrict access to reproductive health care.

In another recent victory, a federal judge in Baltimore blocked a policy from the Trump administration that would have effectively limited access to abortion. The rule would have created a complex billing process for insurance coverage of abortion. Reproductive rights advocates have labeled the rule “a maneuver to restrict access,” as the rule could have prompted insurers to drop abortion coverage.

Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood, acknowledged, “Today is a huge victory for the people who need and deserve access to safe, legal abortion.”        


Jenna Ashendouek is an editorial intern at Ms. and a student at Tufts University pursuing a BA in International Relations with a minor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.