Ohio Puts Down Syndrome Abortion Ban Into Effect


By Daniel Nesbitt ’18, Contributor

On Friday December 22, 2017, Ohio governor John Kasich signed the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (HB-214) into law, prohibiting abortions after a fetal diagnosis of down syndrome, set to go into effect on March 22, 2018.

According to the full, long title of the bill, the purpose of the legislation is to “prohibit 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.” Any physician who violates this law will be charged with a fourth-degree felony – which includes up to 18 months imprisonment and up to a $5,000 fine – and have their license to practice medicine revoked. Only three other states, North Dakota, Indiana, and Louisiana, have passed similar laws. Both the Indiana and Louisiana laws were blocked by a federal judge, however the North Dakota law has been in effect since 2013.

Proponents of the law argue that it is about discrimination rather than abortion. Sarah LaTourette, the republican Ohio representative of the 76th congressional district (near Chagrin Falls), affirmed this idea saying, “it is an issue of discrimination – discriminating against a person, not allowing them their God-given right to life, simply because they might have down syndrome.”

In contrast, upon its introduction to the Ohio congress, the bill faced immediate criticism by abortion advocates. On Thursday, February 15, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio filed a complaint that asks the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio to issue a permanent injunction. In a recent statement, Fred Levenson, the legal director for the ACLU of Ohio says the ban is “a thinly-veiled attempt to criminalize abortion in Ohio.”

According to Sandhya Somashekhar at the Washington Post, disability groups are very divided on this issue. Groups in favor argue that the country is dangerously trending towards eugenics. Groups opposed argue that the ban does nothing to improve the lives of the disabled and only infringes on womens’ rights.