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Ohio House Approves Ban On Abortion In Cases Of Down Syndrome

Abortion protesters at the Ohio Statehouse.
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Supporters wearing fetus shirts seated in front, women dressed like handmaids in back.

The Ohio House approved a bill banning abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. If approved by the Senate and signed into law, Ohio would become just the third state in the country with such a ban.

Republican state Rep. Derek Merrin, one of the bill’s cosponsors, said allowing a diagnosis of Down Syndrome to be used as a reason for abortion is tantamount to discrimination.

“Unborn children are human beings that do exist and those with Down Syndrome are no exception,” Merrin says.

HB 214 would subject doctors who perform abortions in such cases to criminal penalties, and the potential loss of their medical licenses. Pregnant women, however, would face no criminal liability.

But the lawmakers who oppose this bill say it is unconstitutional and could damage the doctor-patient relationship, and that it sends a bad message to people who have other disabilities.  

The bill passed pretty much along party lines with majority Republicans voting for it, and most Democrats voting against it.  SB 164, a companion bill in the Senate, was introduced by Sen. Frank LaRose in June and has been referred to committee. 

On Wednesday, the House began hearings once again on the "Heartbeat Bill," that would ban abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. Advocates want that bill to spark a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.