Ohio House votes to ban abortions once Down syndrome diagnosis made

Doctors who perform abortions for women who want to terminate their pregnancies because Down syndrome has been diagnosed could face criminal prosecution and license revocation, under a House bill approved 63-30 on Wednesday.

The vote came after emotional testimony from lawmakers who oppose abortion as well as those who support abortion rights.

Terminating a pregnancy based on a Down syndrome diagnosis is discriminatory and just because they have a genetic condition does not make them less worthy of life, said state Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Twp., the bill sponsor.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, whose 3-year-old son has Down syndrome, accused her colleagues of politicizing children with genetic conditions. She suggested that if lawmakers really care about children with special needs, they should provide more funding for special education and help families acquire supplemental health insurance.

The bill advances to the Ohio Senate, where a similar measure is pending.

House Bill 214 is supported by Ohio Right to Life and opposed by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. If it becomes law it would:

• Ban abortions once testing indicates the fetus has Down syndrome;

• Require the State Medical Board to revoke a physician’s license if the doctor violates the prohibition;

• Give the woman criminal immunity if she undergoes an abortion;

• Permits lawmakers who sponsored the bill to intervene in any legal challenge to the constitutionality of the bill.

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Down syndrome is a chromosome disorder in which extra genetic material changes the course of develoment. Common traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and a single deep crease across the center of the palm, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born each year in the United States.

The House Health Committee also held a hearing Wednesday on the latest version of the “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions once a heartbeat can be detected. Typically, a heartbeat can be detected about six weeks into a pregnancy.

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