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6th Circuit says Tennessee law banning abortion based on diagnosis of Down Syndrome can be enforced

by | Feb 3, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

A comprehensive multi-pronged Tennessee pro-life law is temporarily back in business, Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press reported.

“The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the request by the Tennessee attorney general’s office to reverse course and temporarily allow the so-called reason ban to be enforced,” the AP reported. “The 6th Circuit had blocked that provision in September after previously allowing it to go into effect in 2020.”

The order halting the injunction was only one sentence long followed by a four-page dissent from Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore.

Gov. Bill Lee signed the bill into law. Middle Tennessee District Judge William L. Campbell issued a preliminary injunction, blocking the law from taking effect, less than an hour after Lee signed it in July 2020.

In September 2020, a three panel of 6th circuit judges upheld Judge Campbell’s decision, which prompted the state to appeal. In late 2021, “the appeals court agreed to vacate previous rulings ahead of a new hearing before all 16 members of the court,” according to Mariah Timms.

 In the summary offered by the Tennessean’s Natalie Allison, we read that under the bill’s provisions….

 Abortions are banned except to save the mother’s life

  • If the doctor knows that the woman is seeking an abortion because of the child’s sex or race.
  • If the doctor knows the woman is seeking an abortion due to  a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
  • After the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected
  • For juveniles in custody of the Department of Children’s Services, including removing the current option to petition a judge for permission.

The legislation also 

  • “Require[s] that abortion clinics post a sign in the waiting room and in patient rooms informing people that it may be possible to reverse a chemical abortion.”

If a ban on abortions after six-weeks is stricken, the legislation includes what is called a “cascading ban” that goes on to “automatically enact abortion bans at eight, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 weeks of gestation,” according to reporter Mariah Timms.

Needless to say, attorneys representing the plaintiffs blasted the decision.

“Pregnant people are the ones best suited to make decisions about their own pregnancies, and politicians should not get to interrogate a person’s reasons for seeking an abortion,” Rabia Muqaddam, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “These bans are blatantly unconstitutional.”

Judge Nelson Moore criticized the majority for

Refus[ing] to hear the case until after the Supreme Court issues its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on the grounds that the Dobbs decision could impact our decision on an entirely separate part of the law —the previability bans. Together, these stay and delay tactics subvert  the normal judicial process, harming both the substance of our ultimate decision and our court’s legitimacy.

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