Ohio Just Banned Abortions For Fetuses Diagnosed With Down Syndrome

A federal judge blocked a similar law in Indiana, arguing it violated women's reproductive rights.

Ohio on Friday banned doctors from performing abortions after a fetus receives a diagnosis of Down syndrome, in a move some anti–abortion rights advocates are cheering and abortion rights advocates are decrying.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law on Friday, leading into a long holiday weekend. Doctors who knowingly violate the ban in Ohio could risk losing their medical licenses and face felony charges.

The law takes effect in 90 days. Two other states, Indiana and North Dakota, have passed similar laws.

The ban "prohibits a person from performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman who is seeking the abortion because an unborn child has or may have Down Syndrome," according to a press release from the governor's office.

Some disabilities rights advocates favor the bans. The head of the Ohio Right to Life organization has said, "Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have."

In response to the bill's signing Friday, the national anti–abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List said in a statement, "Ohio has given unborn children with Down Syndrome and their families an early Christmas present and created a safe haven from lethal discrimination."

Others say the bans infringe on women's autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices.

“When a woman receives a diagnosis of Down syndrome during her pregnancy, the last thing she needs is Governor Kasich barging in to tell her what’s best for her family," said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland in a statement. "This law shames women and will have a chilling effect on the conversations between doctors and patients because of the criminal penalties that doctors will face."

In Indiana, a federal judge blocked the law on grounds that the state does not have the right to limit women’s reasons for terminating a pregnancy.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio argues the new law signed by Kasich is unconstitutional on the same grounds.

"The law does nothing to support families taking care of loved ones with Down syndrome," Copeland said. "And instead exploits them as part of a larger anti-choice strategy to systematically make all abortion care illegal.”

The North Dakota law has not been legally challenged.

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