Missouri Fights in Court to Uphold Ban on Abortions of Babies With Down Syndrome

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 14, 2021   |   3:31PM   |   Washington, DC

Missouri soon may be allowed to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discrimination after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an en banc rehearing Tuesday regarding a state pro-life law.

Bloomberg Law reports the full Eighth Circuit agreed to review an appeal on its own motion Tuesday, meaning “no party to the case requested the full court to review.”

In June, a three-judge panel on the Eighth Circuit decided that the law, which prohibits discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome, likely would be found unconstitutional and refused to lift a lower court ruling blocking it.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in July, but, this week, the full Eighth Circuit Court agreed to rehear the case instead.

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Ed Whelan, a conservative legal expert at National Review, said he was “very pleased” to hear of the judges’ decision. He pointed out that their decision also could affect a ruling that blocked a similar law in Arkansas.

The news is causing panic among abortion activists.

“This is BAD,” Imani Gandy, senior editor of the pro-abortion news site Rewire, responded on Twitter. “It’s not uncommon for a court to decide on its own … to rehear a case, but the law is well-settled. Pre-viability abortion bans are unconstitutional – so yikes.”

Gandy said the court would not have decided to rehear the case unless it plans to uphold the pro-life law.

The Missouri Stands For the Unborn Act bans discriminatory abortions based on an unborn baby’s sex, race or Down syndrome diagnosis, and bans abortions completely once Roe v. Wade is overturned.

It also prohibits abortions after eight weeks, once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. However, it also includes incremental stages to ban abortions after 14 weeks, 18 weeks or 20 weeks if the earlier bans are overturned in court. In addition, it requires that both parents be notified before an underage girl has an abortion.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit soon after the law passed, and the courts have refused to allow Missouri to enforce it.

Laws prohibiting eugenic, discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with disabilities are being passed across the country. In April, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a victory to the states when it upheld an Ohio law that prohibits abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome.

The ruling came three months after an Eighth Circuit panel ruled against another Down syndrome abortion ban in Arkansas. The Seventh Circuit also ruled against an Indiana law in 2018.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge recently filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking it to rule on the matter.

In Missouri Attorney General Schmitt’s appeal to the Supreme Court, he explained why the courts need to act.

“Unborn children with Down syndrome are aborted at epidemic rates,” his office wrote. “In the face of this genocidal crisis, Missouri and at least 11 other states have enacted laws restricting the eugenic abortion of the disabled, especially those with Down syndrome. In 2019, this Court declined to review the Seventh Circuit’s decision invalidating one of these laws—Indiana’s—because no circuit split yet existed. Since then, a clear and well-developed split of authority has emerged.”

According to Missouri health statistics, 1,471 abortions were done in 2019 in the state.

Unborn babies with Down syndrome especially are targeted for abortions, with abortion rates as high as 100 percent in some countries after a prenatal diagnosis.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion through Roe v. Wade, and instead allowed abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

However, the court recently agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization focuses on the question of “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.” The court is scheduled to hear the case during its next term, likely in the fall.