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Bill to ban Down-syndrome abortions set for Ohio House vote Wednesday

(October 31, 2017) — A bill that would ban abortions sought because the fetus might have Down syndrome is scheduled to be voted on by the Ohio House Wednesday afternoon, and its likely passage would put it a step closer to becoming another state law limiting abortions.

In total, three abortion-related bills — House Bill 214, House Bill 258 and House Bill 234 — are to be considered Wednesday.

House Bill 214, sponsored by Reps. Sarah LaTourette, R-Chesterland, and Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township, would prohibit a person from performing or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a woman whose fetus has or might develop Down syndrome.

Violators would face a fourth-degree felony, and the State Medical Board of Ohio would be required to take away a convicted physician’s license to practice medicine in the state.

An identical bill is pending in the Senate.

Seven states — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — ban abortions for gender selection. Arizona bars a woman from receiving an abortion because of the fetus’ race. In 2013,

North Dakota became the first state to prohibit abortions in cases of genetic abnormality.

In Ohio, a bill that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected is to have its first hearing Wednesday morning in the House Health Committee. Dubbed the Heartbeat Bill, House Bill 258 would forbid abortions once a pregnancy reaches about six weeks. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Alliance, and Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville.

“The six-week abortion ban has one aim — to trigger a health crisis by removing access to safe and legal abortion in Ohio,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement.

This is the fourth consecutive session of the General Assembly in which such a bill has been introduced. The first time, the bill made it through the House but stalled in the Senate. The second time, the bill was unable to gain the required support to advance.

In 2016, the House approved the Heartbeat Bill and Republican senators added the measure to unrelated legislation during their final voting sessions of the year. Gov. John Kasich, however, used his line-item-veto authority to strike the amendment. He instead signed a separate ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, legislation that was favored by Ohio Right to Life.

In Congress, a bill titled the Heartbeat Protection Act is to receive a hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

“After debating the abortion issue for nearly 45 years, the Heartbeat Bill finally provides a scientific solution to the abortion debate upon which Americans agree,” Faith2Action President Janet Porter, a longtime ardent advocate, said in a statement.

Lastly, a bill that would criminalize blocking access to reproductive health care is to receive a first hearing Wednesday afternoon in the state House Criminal Justice Committee. House Bill 234 is sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, and Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown.

Megan Henry is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps Statehouse News Bureau.