Missouri AG files petition to protect unborn children with Down Syndrome

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a petition for writ of certiorari in Schmitt v. Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, asking the Supreme Court of the United States to review Missouri’s law prohibiting abortions of unborn children with Down syndrome.

“My son Stephen has shown me the inherent beauty in life, and he brings immense joy and love to his loved ones and those around him.  Since taking office, I’ve fought to protect all life, including the unborn.  A pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be a death sentence,” said Attorney General Schmitt.  “It’s my hope that the Supreme Court will grant our petition for writ of certiorari and hear this critically important case.”

The petition, which was filed earlier today, presents three questions for the Supreme Court’s review:

  1. Whether Missouri’s restriction on abortions performed solely because the unborn child may have Down syndrome is categorically invalid under Casey and Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), or whether it is a valid, reasonable regulation of abortion that seeks to prevent the elimination of children with Down syndrome through eugenic abortion?
  2. Whether Missouri’s restrictions on abortions performed after eight, fourteen, eighteen, and twenty weeks’ gestational age are categorically invalid, or whether they are valid, reasonable regulations of abortion that advance important state interests?
  3. Whether the “penumbral” right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), and partially reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), should be overruled?

The petition argues several reasons for granting the petition, including asking the Court to resolve a circuit split on laws outlawing abortions based solely on a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome, and asking the Court to reverse decisions of the lower courts holding that such provisions are “categorically unconstitutional.”

The petition begins by addressing abortions based solely on pre-natal Down syndrome diagnoses, stating, “Our society has come a long way in 39 years since doctors viewed people like Chris Nikic as ‘mere blobs’ who ‘are quite incapable of telling us what they feel, and what they sense.’  But despite these advances, deeply entrenched forces within our medical establishment continue to treat unborn children with Down syndrome as ‘mere blobs.’  Unborn children with Down syndrome are aborted at epidemic rates. Medicalized discrimination and directive counseling contribute heavily to their elimination.”

The petition continues, “In the face of this genocidal crisis, Missouri and at least 11 other States have enacted laws restricting the eugenic abortion of the disabled, especially those with Down syndrome.  In 2019, this Court declined to review the Seventh Circuit’s decision invalidating one of these laws—Indiana’s—because no Circuit split yet existed.  Since then, a clear and well-developed split of authority has emerged.”

In the lower court, a federal judge initially allowed the state to enforce the provision banning abortions based on a pre-natal Down Syndrome diagnosis, but later reversed his ruling and enjoined the state from enforcing that provision.  The Missouri Attorney General’s Office then appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed that ruling. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case.

Previously, Attorney General Schmitt led a 22-state coalition in filing an amicus brief in support of a similar law banning abortions based solely on a pre-natal Down syndrome diagnosis in Arkansas.

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