Ohio looks to ban abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome

Doctor consoles an upset woman
Ohio Legislation to Ban Abortion of Fetuses with Down Syndrome

A bill targeting disability discrimination in abortion decisions looks set to become Ohio law when the state legislature reconvenes in September, the New York Times reported August 22.

The Right to Life’s Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act would prohibit a “person from performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman who is seeking an abortion because of a test result indicating Down Syndrome in an unborn child or a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome in a child.”

According to its sponsors, the bill targets Down Syndrome because it is easy to identify in prenatal testing. Studies have shown that as many as 60-90 percent of women whose fetuses’ are diagnosed with Down Syndrome opt to have an abortion.

“We all want to be born perfect, but none of us are, and everyone has a right to live, perfect or not,” Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, told the New York Times. “You go to any supermarket or mall and see those families who just happen to have children with Down syndrome, and they will tell you how fortunate they are to have those children. Pretty soon, we’re going to find the gene for autism. Are we going to abort that too?”

The Ohio House Committee on Community and Family Advancement passed the bill by a 9-3 vote on June 16, clearing the way for a vote by the full state House of Representatives.

Although most disability advocacy groups have been silent on the bill, the ACLU of Ohio and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio have been campaigning against the bill, arguing that it is not the role of the government to investigate a woman’s motivations for seeking an abortion.

“This ban would violate that trust by turning a doctor into an interrogator of any woman seeking an abortion, or even just seeking to discuss her options,” the ACLU of Ohio said in a statement. “The ACLU of Ohio advocates for many policies shown to be effective in decreasing the discrimination against people with disabilities. HB 135 causes further division in our state and we encourage the legislature to focus on legislation that improves the lives of all Ohioans.”

More than two-thirds of Ohio’s legislators are sponsored by the National Right to Life Committee, the nation’s largest anti-abortion advocacy group, all but assuring the bill’s passage.

Gov. John Kasich, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, has not yet taken a public stance on the bill, although he has signed a variety of anti-abortion bills during his six years in office.

The bill is similar to legislation enacted in North Dakota in 2013, which banned abortion on the more-expansive basis of the “fetal abnormalities.”