Federal Judge Blocks Ohio Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

The controversial new law would prevent women from aborting fetuses with Down syndrome and was scheduled to go into effect on March 23.

Federal Judge Blocks Ohio Down Syndrome Abortion Ban
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The controversial new law would prevent women from aborting fetuses with Down syndrome and was scheduled to go into effect on March 23.

A federal judge has put the brakes on a controversial new Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban, which was slated to go into effect on March 23. Under the new law, women would not be able to legally terminate a pregnancy after a diagnosis of fetal Down syndrome. In the event that a woman did abort a known Down syndrome fetus, the doctor performing the procedure would be the one to pay the price, potentially being convicted of a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000.

As The Hill reports, in a lengthy, 22-page-long order, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a preliminary injunction preventing the new Ohio Down syndrome abortion law from being implemented next week. In his injunction, Judge Black put HB 214 on hold, at least temporarily, citing his opinion that the state of Ohio is grossly overstepping its authority with the new legislation, which was signed by pro-life governor and former GOP presidential candidate John Kasich last December.

Judge Black wrote that the law is not only unconstitutional, but that it also “violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio.” According to the federal judge, the law is a direct violation of previous Supreme Court rulings, as well as established American legal precedent, which prohibit laws that restrict women from choosing to abort prior to fetal viability.

“Here, Ohio’s new law wrongfully does just that: it violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio and is unconstitutional on its face.”

The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit against the state in February, representing several abortion providers including Planned Parenthood of Ohio Southwest Region and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. In their suit, the plaintiffs argued that the new Down syndrome abortion ban would require gestating women to seek abortions out of state or even be forced to gestate against their will in cases of Down syndrome diagnosis. Proponents of the law claim that it was enacted not to curtail women’s rights, but rather to put a stop to discrimination against “children” with Down syndrome.

In the United States, as many as 85 percent of all fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted.

Opponents of the now-halted Ohio abortion law claim that the legislation does “absolutely nothing” to help people with Down syndrome (or other disabilities). According to Freda Levenson of the Ohio ACLU, the organization intends to ensure that the law is never enforced.

“This law does absolutely nothing to support people with disabilities — it’s just another ploy to make it nearly impossible for Ohio women to get the care they need. We are committed to making sure this unconstitutional law is never enforced and today’s ruling brings us one step closer.”

Ohio is not the only state to have recently enacted similar legislation, and similar lawsuits fighting the Down syndrome abortion bans have been filed in Louisiana and Indiana; no state in the union has been successful in actually implementing the controversial anti-abortion laws. Utah also attempted to push through an anti-Down syndrome abortion law in the last legislative session, but the effort was shot down.