Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation which is banning doctors to perform abortions in cases where tests reveal the fetus has or likely has Down syndrome. The law was signed on Dec. 22 and it goes into effect in 90 days. "The governor is pro-life and supports policies that protect the sanctity of life," press secretary Jon Keeling tells CNN.
Down syndrome (DS or DNS), also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental ability of an 8- or 9-year-old child, but this can vary widely.
Down syndrome can be identified during pregnancy by prenatal screening followed by diagnostic testing or after birth by direct observation and genetic testing. Since the introduction of screening, pregnancies with the diagnosis are often terminated. The problem is that women in Ohio no longer have the possibility to terminate problematic pregnancies.
If a doctor goes through with an abortion in case where there is prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, he would be charged with fourth-degree felony, fined up to $5,000, and face up to 18 months in prison. Also, doctors could lose their medical licenses. Anti-abortion rights advocates say abortions because of Down syndrome are discrimination and cheered Kasich's decision Friday.
“Ohio has given unborn children with Down syndrome and their families an early Christmas present and created a safe haven from lethal discrimination,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Opponents argue the law will prevent women from making their own decisions on their pregnancies. Future mothers are already in a difficult situation when they hear the news about the Down syndrome diagnosis, and now this law requires the child to be born regardless of whether families are in position to take care of that child.
"When a woman receives a diagnosis of Down syndrome during her pregnancy, the last thing she needs is Gov. Kasich barging in to tell her what's best for her family," said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland.
A similar law was passed in Indiana before being struck down in September by a judge after a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. Let’s hope this law would also be legally challenged.
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