Provisions of a Tennessee law banning abortions based on a baby’s race, sex or diagnoses of fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome may go into effect after being banned by a federal district court, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.
Pro-life Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed a sweeping set of abortion restrictions last July that included the so-called “reasons provisions” the circuit court upheld on Friday. While those provisions may take effect, other parts of the law, such as a ban on abortions beyond six weeks’ gestation or detection of a fetal heartbeat, remain invalidated by the lower district court.
Lee said of Friday’s ruling: “Every life is precious and every child has inherent human dignity. 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. Protecting our most vulnerable Tennesseans is worth the fight.”
“We appreciate the Sixth Circuit lifting the lower court’s injunction,” said Samantha Fisher, Tennessee Attorney General’s office spokesperson. “We look forward to defending the statute in a more normal process. We don’t think the statute is unconstitutional and the extraordinary relief of an injunction was not warranted.”
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement: “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.
“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.”
Last summer, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America had already drafted lawsuits against the Tennessee law, filing them immediately after its signing. Within an hour, a federal district court judge had blocked the law.
After Friday’s ruling, according to the Associated Press, the plaintiffs’ attorneys again filed a request in federal district court to block the newly validated provisions, this time on grounds they impede a woman’s right to “pre-viability” abortion access. The federal district court has not yet ruled on the latest challenge.
Tennessee was one of a rash of states this year to pass stronger abortion restrictions. For example, in Florida, a parental consent law for minors seeking abortion took effect in July. In Mississippi, a law banning abortion based on sex, race or genetic abnormalities took effect in July. In August, Nebraska’s Republican pro-life Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a dismemberment abortion ban.