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Attorney General Rutledge Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Arkansas Law Barring Abortion Based on Down Syndrome

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that held the Constitution guarantees a right to selective abortion of children with Down syndrome. In January, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s order that blocked Arkansas’s law prohibiting abortions that are performed solely on the basis of Down syndrome. Attorney General Rutledge’s petition asks the Supreme Court to reverse the Eighth Circuit.

“The Constitution does not require Arkansas to permit discrimination-by-abortion against Americans with Down syndrome,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Through my personal friendships, I know that while individuals with Down syndrome may have an extra chromosome, they also have extra love and joy they share unconditionally, and I will not stand by while God’s gifts are exterminated as has been done in other countries.”

In 2019, Arkansas lawmakers passed Act 619, the Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act. It prohibits a practitioner from performing an abortion if the woman is seeking the abortion “solely on the basis of” a diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other reason to believe the child has Down syndrome.

Shortly before Act 619 took effect, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and O’Melveny & Myers, an international law firm based in California, sued to block it and other laws. The federal district court in Little Rock took their side and ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to selectively abort children with Down syndrome.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed, because it felt bound by prior decisions that have misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s precedent. Although the Eighth Circuit ultimately ruled against Arkansas, two of the three judges agreed with Arkansas that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to discriminatory, selective abortions. These two judges asked the Supreme Court to correct its precedent.

The case is called Rutledge v. Little Rock Family Planning Services, No. 20-1434. For a copy of the petition, click here.

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