By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
CINCINNATI (LBM) – A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court has ruled, 2-1, that a “reason ban” that prohibits abortion based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is valid while other pro-life provisions in the Tennessee law are awaiting a ruling.
The panel included 2 Republican-appointed judges (one nominated by President Trump), and a Democrat appointee.
The panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also allowed a reason ban in the Volunteer state based on abortions sought because of the race or gender of the unborn child.
The ruling means Louisiana’s 2016 “Jacob’s law,” named by its House sponsor after Jacob Hall (Philadelphia Baptist Church Horseshoe Drive in Alexandria), will not be challenged for the moment.
Officially registered as Act 563, the legislation was championed by Rep. Rick Edmonds, retired pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport and former vice president of Louisiana Family Forum. As he was pushing the legislation through committee, Edmonds asked the then 19 year old and his father, Will Hall, director for the Office of Public Policy for Louisiana Baptists, to testify.
His legislation prohibited the abortion of an unborn baby after 20 weeks of gestation if sought “solely because the unborn child has been diagnosed with either a genetic abnormality” such as Down syndrome. Jacob’s Law survived a 2017 legal attack in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in a case brought forward by an abortion provider in Shreveport, June Medical Services, LLC. Then Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson dismissed without prejudice the abortion facility’s challenge to the abortion ban against genetic abnormalities.
The Tennessee law, meanwhile will receive scrutiny due to its limiting abortions of the preborn who are older than 6 weeks in development. The ruling on that element of the Tennessee legislation could affect laws passed in at least six other states, including Louisiana’s “heartbeat” bill passed in 2019.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) celebrated the court’s ruling.
“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,” Lee said in a statement the Friday before Thanksgiving. “Protecting our most vulnerable Tennesseans is worth the fight.”
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 700 babies in this country is born with the condition – about 6,000 Down syndrome births a year.