The US Supreme Court on Thursday vacated three orders issued by lower courts in Arizona, Indiana, and Arkansas that had invalidated state-level abortion on the grounds of Roe v. Wade. This follows the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe last Friday.
The now-vacated Arizona ruling had stopped a state law that criminalized abortions performed on fetuses with non-lethal genetic abnormalities, of which Down syndrome is one. The injunction was aimed at relevant parts of four clauses of Senate Bill 1457, which makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion “knowing that the abortion is sought solely because of a genetic abnormality of the child.” The law also requires the doctor to sign an affidavit declaring that the abortion is not being performed for this reason and to inform the patient of the illegality of abortions due to genetic abnormality. Finally, it requires doctors to report to the State when a genetic abnormality has been detected. This law was challenged in Brnovich v. Isaacson in 2021, and the court order was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 2019 Arkansas ruling in Little Rock Planning Services v. Rutledge enjoined three laws that banned abortion in various circumstances. Arkansas Code Title 20, Chapter 26, Act 493 prohibits abortions past 18 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for medical emergencies and pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Act 619 prohibits all abortions solely on the basis of having a reason to believe that the fetus has Down syndrome, with the same exceptions. Act 700 requires the person performing an abortion to be a licensed physician in obstetrics and gynecology. The injunction of these laws by the federal court was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Indiana, a 2017 ruling in the case of Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky had enjoined a law prohibiting abortions before 20 weeks in various cases. The law, Chapter 16-34-4 of the Indiana Code, prohibits abortions before 20 weeks if the abortion was for the fetus’s demographic, sex, or disability purposes. Specifically, the abortion is prohibited if sought due to possibility of genetically-inherited disease, defect, or disorder either tested for or with some risk present. This includes, among other things, Down syndrome and any mental, physical, and intellectual disabilities. Abortions related to the fetus’s sex, or to its race, color, national origin, or ancestry, are also prohibited. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the injunction.
The three laws enjoined by the injunctions will take effect immediately. These cases will be sent back to the lower court for further proceedings.