Appeals court upholds ruling that overturned Indiana's abortion ban on babies with Down Syndrome

(Reuters/Damir Sagolj)Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province August 3, 2014.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision that blocked an Indiana law that would have prohibited abortions on unborn babies based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill, known as House Enrolled Act 1337, would have prohibited abortion practitioners from knowingly terminating a pregnancy based on the unborn baby's race, sex, or a diagnosis of a genetic disability, Life News reported.

The measure was signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2016, but it was blocked by a federal judge in 2017 after it was challenged in court by Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued a preliminary injunction against the measure in June 2016, saying it violated a woman's right to privacy, as well as the right to choose an abortion before the viability of a fetus. A permanent injunction was issued by the same judge in September.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel at the Seventh Circuit Court voted 2–1 to uphold the injunction against the law, saying the "non-discrimination provisions" were unconstitutional.

"The non-discrimination provisions clearly violate well-established Supreme Court precedent holding that a woman may terminate her pregnancy prior to viability, and that the State may not prohibit a woman from exercising that right for any reason," Judge William J. Bauer wrote in an opinion, as reported by Indy Star.

Bauer rejected Indiana's argument that women's privacy rights only cover the "binary choice" of whether to abort or keep a baby, not whether to terminate particular pregnancies, such as those diagnosed with genetic disabilities.

"Nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment or Supreme Court precedent allows the State to invade this privacy realm to examine the underlying basis for a woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy prior to viability," Bauer went on to say.

PPINK had also objected to a provision that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate aborted babies.

Seventh Circuit Judge Daniel A Manion dissented on the fetal remains provision, saying "[t]hat part of Indiana's law rationally advances Indiana's interests in protecting public sensibilities and recognizing the dignity and humanity of the unborn."

Sital Kalantry, clinical professor of law and director of the International Human Rights Policy Advocacy Clinic at Cornell Law School, noted that this was the first time that a court has overturned a ban on abortion based on race, sex or disability diagnosis.

Similar laws banning abortions on babies with Down Syndrome have been passed in North Dakota, Louisiana and Ohio. Life News noted that a similar measure is being considered by Pennsylvania lawmakers.

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