Court reinstates Tennessee law prohibiting discriminatory abortions

court, abortion pill reversal, conscience protections, abortions

A Tennessee law prohibiting abortions based on a preborn child’s race, gender, or a diagnosis like Down syndrome is back in effect after a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last Wednesday. The decision is the latest in a series of back-and-forth court rulings regarding the law.

The legislation was initially enacted in July 2020 and was part of a larger bill that prohibits abortion after a preborn child’s heartbeat is detected. After a challenge from the abortion industry, which claimed that the law was too vague, a District Court immediately placed an injunction on the law, blocking it from going into effect. Then, in November 2020, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling that allowed the Down syndrome abortion ban to take effect while maintaining the block on the portion of the bill banning abortion after a detectable heartbeat.

However, in September 2021, a different court ruling determined that the state could not enforce the law. That injunction has now been lifted and the discriminatory abortion portion of the law is once again back in effect.

The reversal does not impact the heartbeat ban portion of the law, which remains blocked. The court has signaled that it may not hear that case until the Supreme Court issues its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

READ: Tennessee’s 48-hour abortion waiting period to remain in effect

In her dissent, Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore decried the court’s decision. “(These) stay-and-delay tactics subvert the normal judicial process, harming both the substance of our ultimate decision and our court’s legitimacy,” she said. “Dobbs is unlikely to address, let alone resolve, the vagueness concerns that led the district court to enjoin the reason bans. Although the questions presented in Dobbs are entirely unrelated to the questions posed by Tennessee’s reason bans, the majority chooses to stay indefinitely the district court’s preliminary injunction of the reason bans until after Dobbs is decided.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser hailed the ruling. In a statement to Catholic News Agency, she said, “The devastating toll of abortion on minority communities, people with Down syndrome, and thousands of missing baby girls is well documented. Tennessee’s landmark pro-life laws reflect the overwhelming consensus of Americans who oppose lethal discrimination against unborn children and want far greater limits on abortion than our national status quo allows.”

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