Doctors in Ohio who perform abortions on pregnancies with a diagnosis of fetal Down syndrome are now forbidden to do so, thanks to a new bill passed last week.
The bill, which passed in Ohio’s GOP-controlled House 63-30, penalizes doctors who perform such abortions. It now goes to the Senate for consideration, where a companion bill has received several hearings.
“Their right to life should be protected,” said GOP Rep. Derek Merrin of Monclova Township, Ohio, a sponsor of the proposed ban. “Individuals with Down syndrome are truly treasures.”
American women choose to terminate pregnancies 50% to 85% of the time after a Down syndrome diagnosis, according to a study published in 2012 in the medical journal Prenatal Diagnosis.
“Physicians who violate the proposed ban would face a fourth-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. They could also lose their license to practice medicine and face lawsuits if the woman is injured or dies because of the illegal abortion,” according to a report in USA Today.
Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota are the only other states that have passed laws to ban abortions after diagnoses of genetic abnormalities. A federal judge found Indiana’s law to be unconstitutional and Louisiana’s law is facing a legal challenge. In essence, North Dakota is the only state with a ban now in effect.
Ohio is the only state seeking to ban abortions based on only the Down syndrome diagnosis.
Rep. Brigid Kelly, a Democrat from the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, voiced her concerns that the ban sends the wrong message to people with other types of developmental disabilities.
“This bill creates a hierarchy of disabilities with Down syndrome on the top,” said Kelly.
Other critics say the bill would stifle conversations between doctors and their patients. “We all agree on having privacy — we don’t want the government intruding on our personal decisions and things we do and do not participate in,” Rep. Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, said on the floor.
After Pittsburgh mom Kelly Caskey learned that her fourth child would be born with Down Syndrome, she said she struggled with the idea of raising a child with special needs.
“I was afraid of Down syndrome, and many mornings during my pregnancy, I woke up with tears in my eyes, hoping that this diagnosis was a nightmare and not reality,” she said.
“When our daughter arrived, she was everything that I ever dreamed, hoped and prayed for. Yes, she has Down syndrome, but that’s not who she is. She has a smile that lights up a room, she enjoys interacting with everyone around her, and she has changed our family for the better.”
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