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Ohio Senate Passes Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

Karen Kasler

Ohio could soon become the third state in the country to ban abortion after a diagnosis of Down syndrome, after both the House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to do so.

The bill cleared the chamber 20-12, a day after it passed the Senate Health Committee. Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) explained why he sponsored SB 164, the Senate version of the ban.

“Do we want in the state of Ohio to have people making a decision that someone is less valuable because of a chromosomal disorder that they have?” LaRose asked.

But Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) joined the nine Democrats in voting against it, saying he’s worried whether it will hold up in court. He also said he worries about encouraging silence about Down syndrome.

“I fear that we will have more abortions, which is not the impact of this bill,” Dolan says. Constitutionally, I have questions.”

The House passed a Down syndrome abortion ban two weeks ago. That bill, HB 214, would subject doctors who perform abortions in such cases to criminal penalties, and the potential loss of their medical licenses. Pregnant women would face no criminal liability.

Opponents testifying Tuesday included a former U.S. Trademarks commissioner whose 50-year-old brother has Down syndrome. She said the bill would require women to deliver Down syndrome babies who might not have the resources, support or commitment to care for them.

Ohio Right to Life lauded the Senate for passing the legislation, which it said was its top legislative priority this year. Supporters argue terminating pregnancies in such cases amounts to discrimination.

One measure will have to be chosen to be presented to Gov. John Kasich, who said two years ago he would sign such a ban. A similar but wider-reaching law in Indiana was recently struck down by a federal court.