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Ohio Senate, House now have both banned abortions for Down syndrome

(November 15, 2017) — The House and Senate have now both passed bills that would ban abortions because the fetus might have Down syndrome.

Both bills passed by an overwhelming majority. Senate Bill 164 passed by a 20-12 vote Wednesday, and House Bill 214 passed earlier this month. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, and the House version is sponsored by Reps. Sarah LaTourette, R-Chesterland, and Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township.

“To me, it’s quite simply a statement that we should not be making a judgment of one life being more valuable than another,” LaRose said.

Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, raised two questions: Will the bill reduce or eliminate abortion, and is the bill constitutional?

“If we’re going to introduce law that says the patient and doctor’s conversation with each other could lead to some liability, I think what we’re going to see is reduced conversation,” Dolan said.

Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said this is the sixth time this General Assembly has dealt with a bill regarding abortion.

“This time the twist is to go after the doctors with the purpose of scaring the doctors and shaming women,” said Schiavoni, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The bills would prevent anyone from performing or attempting to perform or induce an abortion because the fetus has or might have Down syndrome. Violators would face a fourth-degree felony and the state medical board would be required to take away a convicted physician’s license to practice medicine in Ohio.

The Senate bill was approved less than 24 hours earlier in the Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee.

Two Democratic amendments were added to the Senate version of the bill Wednesday before the vote: No public funds would be used to defend the ban if it’s challenged in court; and women should not be compelled to share why they are having an abortion. Sen. Michael J. Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Sen. Charleta B. Tavares, D-Columbus, introduced the amendments, respectively.

“No, do not share, if you don’t want to share,” Tavares said.

This abortion legislation is Ohio’s Right to Life’s top priority this year.

“Ohio Right to Life thanks our pro-life senators for taking a stand against the modern-day eugenic practice of aborting babies with Down syndrome,” said the group’s president, Mike Gonidakis. “All Ohioans, regardless of the gender, skin color or disability, deserve the right to live out their God-given potential and purpose.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said: “In committee hearings in both the House and Senate, we heard from doctors, and parents of children with Down syndrome. They all want women to have the power to make their own decisions on how and when they raise a family. They all oppose this bill.”

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that is caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Those with Down syndrome have an increased risk for medical conditions including congenital heart defects, and respiratory and hearing problems; Alzheimer’s disease; childhood leukemia; and thyroid conditions. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition in the United States; about 1 in 700 babies in the United States is born with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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