A Tennessee law banning abortions for a number of reasons, including race, sex, or a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, has been upheld by an appeals court as litigation against the law continues.
CNN reported that the “6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted part of a lower court’s preliminary injunction that blocked the law from being enforced, allowing a portion of the law to take effect while the case continues to be litigated between the state and abortion rights groups.”
The law also included a “heartbeat ban,” which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be seen as early as six weeks.
Abortion activists sued over the law, and that litigation is working its way through court. “Legal challenges from abortion rights advocates have so far stopped the laws from taking effect in at least nine states, including Tennessee,” CNN reported.
The ban on specific reasons for an abortion, however, remains in place as litigation continues. More from CNN:
Tennessee’s law also prohibited abortions if the doctor knew the patient was seeking an abortion because of the child’s race, sex or a diagnosis or screening that indicated Down syndrome, a genetic condition that affects cognitive ability and causes developmental delays.
Violating the law would be a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a $10,000 maximum fine.
Tennessee abortion providers represented by abortion rights advocates had argued in part that the law is “unconstitutionally vague,” according to the court’s ruling, “because it requires a physician to discern her patient’s motivations.”
But the court ruled 2-1 in the state’s favor, allowing Tennessee to enforce the ban while litigation continues.
The one appeals court judge who ruled against reinstating the ban wrote that women “often seek reproductive care for multifaceted reasons,” and the Tennessee law was “unclear on how the state determines whether the physician understood the eventual reason for the woman’s choice.”
Abortion activists who filed the original lawsuit filed another motion following the appeals court’s ruling, again asking the U.S. district court to halt the bans from taking effect while litigation is ongoing, CNN reported.
Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) cheered the ruling in a tweet on Friday.
“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,” Lee wrote.
Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which are suing over the Tennessee law, released a joint statement on the ruling.
“These bans are just another way anti-abortion politicians are attempting to limit the constitutional right to abortion care and to create stigma,” said Nancy Northup, president of CRR. “Decisions about whether and when to continue or to end a pregnancy are best made by the individual and their family.”
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