Full Appeals Court Considers Abortion Law

Dec 20, 2019

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Ohio attorney general’s petition for rehearing en banc a case regarding an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion when the unborn child has, or is likely to have, Down Syndrome.

On October 11, 2019, a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit barred the state of Ohio from enforcing its law that prohibits medical providers from performing an abortion if they have “knowledge that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion, in whole or in part, because” her baby has been diagnosed as having Down syndrome. 

In its petition regarding Pre-Term Cleveland v. Himes, the state argued that the panel majority appeals court erred when it concluded that Supreme Court precedent creates a “categorical” right to a pre-viability abortion. It also emphasized the state’s “critically important” interests in protecting the dignity of people with Down syndrome and in preventing the medical profession from promoting eugenic “solutions.” Oral argument before the en banc court will occur on March 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit on behalf of several abortion providers and their patients challenging HB 214, an Ohio law that criminalizes abortions if one of the pregnant person’s reasons for the abortion is a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. On March 14, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law, ruling that Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Roe v. Wade bars states from prohibiting pregnant people “from making the ultimate decision to terminate [their] pregnancy before viability.”

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