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Tennessee's Down syndrome abortion ban can be enforced, appeals court rules

November 22, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Part of a Tennessee law banning abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome or a fetus' race or sex, can take effect, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

(CNN)Part of a Tennessee law banning abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome or a fetus' race or sex, can take effect, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

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 legislation, signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee this summer, was among the so-called "heartbeat bans" passed by a number of states blocking abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know that they're pregnant.

Legal challenges from abortion rights advocates have so far stopped the laws from taking effect in at least nine states, including Tennessee.

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 court's order did not address the part of the law outlawing abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Attorneys argued the appeals court did not address the argument that the Tennessee law violates patients' constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion.

"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," the governor said.

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