Appeals Court Rules Tennessee Can Ban Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 3, 2022   |   10:03AM   |   Nashville, Tennessee

In a pro-life victory, a federal appeals court late Wednesday ruled that a Tennessee law that bans abortions on babies with Down syndrome can take effect. The law bans abortions when done specifically to kill a baby who is of a certain race, gender or has Down syndrome.

In Wednesday’s decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request by the Tennessee attorney general to allow the ban to stay in force while the lawsuit from abortion businesses continues against the law. The 6th Circuit had blocked that pro-life  provision in September after previously allowing it to go into effect in 2020.

The appellate court indicated it will not move forward with a hearing on the law until the Supreme Court rules in the Dobbs case, which could be used to overturn Roe. In that case, the law would easily be upheld.

Tennessee Right to Life supported this provision as it passed through the legislature, and it applauds this decision today.

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“We applaud the Sixth Circuit for, once again, affirming the voice of the people of Tennessee and upholding this ban on abortions of children based on race, gender or genetic abnormality,” said Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “This provision, in particular, defends the most vulnerable among us and upholds the virtue that all lives matter regardless of condition or color and it’s time this state and all states take an interest in protecting those lives.”

“Unborn children are the only group of people who can be discriminated against because of their race, gender or disability. This ban would end that. Tennessee Right to Life will continue to work with legislators to ensure that all unborn children are protected by law, but the Sixth Circuit has taken a huge step in allowing Tennesseans to end the violence to those who are targeted in our society,” Dunn continued.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who signed the bill into law, previously promised he will do “whatever it takes in court” to defend the omnibus House Bill 2263/Senate Bill 2196.

“Our law prohibits abortion based on the race, gender, or diagnosis of Down syndrome of the child and the court’s decision will save lives,” adding, “Protecting our most vulnerable Tennesseans is worth the fight.”

Though the legislation is described as a heartbeat bill, it includes many different measures to protect unborn babies. The law passed the state legislature, and pro-life lawmakers said they wrote the bill to withstand a legal challenge.

The heartbeat portion of the bill prohibits abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. It also includes other levels of restriction going up from eight weeks to 24 weeks of pregnancy, which would go into effect depending on what a court may strike down, the report states.

The bill also bans discriminatory abortions based on the unborn baby’s sex, race or a Down syndrome diagnosis. It allows exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk. Abortionists who violate these bans could face felony charges.

After Tennessee approved the bill, abortion activists immediately took it to court. The law was immediately blocked by a lower federal court just hours after Lee signed it into law.

Lee celebrated the legislation as a “historic moment” for the state, when he signed the pro-life measure.

“Life is precious and everything that is precious is worthy of protecting. We know that in Tennessee and I certainly know that in my heart, which is why we worked so hard together with the legislature to make sure that this piece of legislation got done,” Lee said in a video posted online. “It’s our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our community, and certainly the most vulnerable in Tennessee includes the unborn.”

The pro-life legislation includes informed consent measures as well. It requires abortion facilities to inform women about the abortion pill reversal procedure and the size and gestational age of their unborn babies. It also requires abortion facilities to allow the mother to hear her unborn baby’s heartbeat and see the baby on an ultrasound.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser thanked Lee for taking bold steps to protect unborn babies and their families.

“We are pleased to see this pro-life legislation signed into law – it includes some of the strongest protections for unborn children in the nation, and is the latest evidence that pro-life support is surging throughout the states,” Dannenfelser said. “As Joe Biden and other party leaders continue to promote taxpayer-funded abortion on demand and even infanticide, we are encouraged that pro-life lawmakers in the states continue to be motivated to promote strong pro-life policies.”

The pro-life legislation could save tens of thousands of unborn babies’ lives and protect their mothers, but the success of the heartbeat ban against a legal challenge is uncertain depending on how the Supreme Court rules.