Ohio bill would ban Down syndrome abortions

By Marc Kovac



The Ohio House of Representatives began hearings Tuesday on legislation to ban abortions solely because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome.

HB 135 includes criminal penalties and license revocations for doctors who perform the procedure in such cases.

Backers say the proposed law changes are about ending discrimination.

“Choosing to end a person’s life simply because of this diagnosis is discrimination, period,” said Rep. Sarah LaTourette, R-Bainbridge, a primary co-sponsor of the legislation. She added later, “I believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong. But regardless of if you agree with me or not, I hope that you can see that this isn’t an issue about abortion — it’s an issue of discrimination. Discriminating against a person, not allowing them their God-given right to life, simply because they might have Down syndrome.”

HB 135 prohibits abortions in cases where the procedure is sought only because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. Women who pursue such abortions would be immune from criminal penalties; rather, the legal consequences for breaking the ban would fall on the physicians involved.

The legislation includes requirements that doctors report abortions they conduct to state health officials and affirm that they are unaware of Down syndrome diagnoses as being the sole reason for the procedure.

“This bill seeks to right the wrong that has been so blatantly practiced in the state of Ohio and gives every person with the potential of a Down syndrome diagnosis the basic right to live,” Rep. Dave Hall, R-Millersburg, the other primary co-sponsor of the legislation, said in committee testimony Tuesday.

“These pre-screenings are not 100 percent accurate, and babies who show positive results for Down syndrome do not always end up having the condition. Regardless of this inaccuracy, ending the life of a child that may or may not have the syndrome is wrong.”

LaTourette said medical services and treatment have advanced, and the life expectancy for those with Down syndrome is now more than 60 years, versus 25 in 1983. Additionally, there are support groups and a national registry of adoptive parents, he said.