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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, et al. v. Slatery, et al.

Overview

Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, et al. v. Slatery, et al. (U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, Sept. 10, 2021): The 6th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s judgment blocking enforcement of two sections of a strict abortion regulation enacted in Tennessee. The sections at issue criminalized performance of pre-viability abortions between gestational ages of about 6 weeks and 24 weeks (Section 216), and performance of abortions if the physician knows the abortion is sought because of the race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis of the fetus (Section 217). Six abortion providers challenged both sections as placing undue burdens on women seeking pre-viability abortions and challenged Section 217 as unconstitutionally vague. The 6th Circuit, in affirming the lower court’s judgment, found that the burden imposed by Section 216 was so substantial as to likely be unconstitutional, and the state’s purported reasons for the law were likely disingenuous, while their more probable intentions were illegitimate and impermissible. The court also agreed with the district court that the language of Section 217 was so vague as to “make it impossible for a person of ordinary intelligence to know what conduct constitutes a crime.” Read the full decision here.

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