Tennessee Down syndrome abortion ban back in effect while legal challenges continue

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA


Tennessee state house / Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Feb 3, 2022 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A Tennessee law restricting abortions based on sex, race, or prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is back in effect for now, as legal challenges against the law continue to play out in court.

The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List welcomed the court’s decision.

“The devastating toll of abortion on minority communities, people with Down syndrome, and thousands of missing baby girls is well documented. Tennessee’s landmark pro-life laws reflect the overwhelming consensus of Americans who oppose lethal discrimination against unborn children and want far greater limits on abortion than our national status quo allows,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 2 allowed the law to go back into effect, after having blocked it last September. That same court last year allowed a similar ban in Ohio to remain in effect.

In July 2020, Tennessee enacted a law prohibiting abortions conducted because of the race or sex of the baby, or because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. The legislation also bans abortion after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected – as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Similar laws in Mississippi, Ohio, and other states have been struck down in court. In this case, the court could be waiting to rule on the Tennessee law until after the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which observers say has a substantial likelihood of overturning Roe v. Wade.

A District Court had issued a temporary injunction against the law on the day it was signed into law. During September 2021, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling that halted the law from going into effect.

The plaintiffs in the case, which are mainly abortion advocacy groups and abortion providers, have argued the law is improperly vague.

Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore, dissenting to the circuit court’s recent decision, wrote that “Dobbs is unlikely to address, let alone resolve, the vagueness concerns that led the district court to enjoin the reason bans. Although the questions presented in Dobbs are entirely unrelated to the questions posed by Tennessee’s reason bans, the majority chooses to stay indefinitely the district court’s preliminary injunction of the reason bans until after Dobbs is decided.”

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