80 Members of Congress Tell Supreme Court to Uphold Law Banning Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 13, 2021   |   6:33PM   |   Washington, DC

More than 80 members of Congress asked the U.S. Supreme Court this week to uphold an Arkansas law that prohibits discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome.

The 2019 law has the potential to save hundreds of babies’ lives, but an Eighth Circuit panel recently upheld a federal judge’s ruling blocking the law. In April, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court ruling and uphold the law.

This week, 82 U.S. House and Senate lawmakers joined her in that request, filing an amicus brief in support of the pro-life law, Fox News reports.

“Our society has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, including unborn children with disabilities,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, who led the brief. “Arkansas’ law seeks to protect babies with Down syndrome from modern-day eugenicists who want to end their lives, simply because of their disability.”

U.S. Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, told Fox News that she also was proud to sign the brief and support the law.

“Every life is valuable and has dignity and our laws should reflect that,” Hinson said.

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In their brief, the lawmakers said states like Arkansas should be allowed to “combat invidious discrimination by preventing doctors from performing selective abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.”

“Performing an abortion on the basis of a disability disregards the dignity of those with disabilities and perpetuates abortion as ‘a tool of modern-day eugenics,’” the brief states.

To U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, another lawmaker who signed the brief, the Arkansas law is especially important because his son, Alex, has Down syndrome.

“Alex … is one of the greatest joys in my life,” Sessions said. “The United States of America grants rights to an individual based on their God-given existence, with or without disabilities. Alex and many others are proof of the greatness Down syndrome individuals can accomplish and the value they bring to society.”

On the same day, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch led 22 states in filing a similar brief in support of the law.

“All children are created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose, and those in the disability community are a beacon of light, joy and hope radiating throughout the world,” Fitch said. “A pre-natal Down syndrome diagnosis should not be a death sentence. I will always fight to protect our children, especially those who cannot fight for themselves.”

The other state attorneys general who support the law represent Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

In January, an Eighth Circuit panel upheld a federal judge’s ruling blocking the law. Their ruling was 3-0, but two of the judges “felt bound by prior decisions that have misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s precedent,” according to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office.

“Although the Eighth Circuit ultimately ruled against Arkansas, two of the three judges agreed with Arkansas that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to discriminatory, selective abortions. These two judges asked the Supreme Court to correct its precedent,” the office wrote.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Eighth Circuit, pointing to past Supreme Court decisions, ruled that a state “may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy” before viability.

The pro-abortion groups challenging the law include Little Rock Family Planning Services, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

Significantly, just days after Arkansas filed its petition to the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a similar law in Ohio. The ruling means there is a circuit court split on the issue, and it is up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision on the constitutionality of such laws. Pro-life leaders hope the cases will prompt the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to protect unborn babies from abortions again.

“This is an opportunity for Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge and her team to win a big, pro-life victory in court that could help save the lives of unborn children in Arkansas and across the nation,” the Family Council of Arkansas said in a statement on its website.

Discriminatory, eugenic abortions have become of increasing concern with the increased availability of prenatal genetic testing. Unborn babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities are targeted for abortions at astronomical rates. Many believe sex-selection abortions also occur in the U.S., though data is limited.

Other states with laws that protect unborn babies with disabilities include Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Indiana. However, most are blocked because of legal challenges.