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Gov. Kasich signs bill prohibiting Ohio abortions based on Down syndrome diagnosis

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) signed into law on Friday a bill prohibiting abortion based on a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis, his office said. The law will go into effect in March. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) signed into law on Friday a bill prohibiting abortions in Ohio based on a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis, his office said.

What is the bill?

House Bill 214, the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, prohibits abortion procedures on a pregnant woman who is seeking to have an abortion due to a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Cleveland.com reported that under the law, which will go into effect in March, a doctor who performs an abortion and was aware of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis “could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison.” There would be no punishment for the patient who underwent the procedure.

The report said the bill is the 20th abortion restriction approved by Kasich since he took office in 2011.

What did activists say?

Supporters of the legislation cite high Down syndrome termination rates and say the practice of aborting these children amounts to modern-day eugenics. Opponents said the bill would restrict women’s reproductive rights.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement that since the legislation has been signed into law, “unborn babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are given a shot at life.”

“Ohio is and will continue to be a state that sees the lives of people with Down syndrome as lives worth living, thanks to this legislation.”

Gonidakis called Kasich “a pro-life champion” and said the pro-life group is “thankful for how he has made it clear that we will not permit this kind of discrimination against people with Down syndrome.”

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement, “When a woman receives a diagnosis of Down syndrome during her pregnancy, the last thing she needs is Governor Kasich barging in to tell her what’s best for her family.”

“This law shames women and will have a chilling effect on the conversations between doctors and patients because of the criminal penalties that doctors will face,” Copeland said. “This law does nothing to support families taking care of loved ones with Down syndrome, instead it exploits them as part of a larger anti-choice strategy to systematically make all abortion care illegal.”

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