February 15, 2018 / 7:42 PM / in 5 days

Rights group sues to block Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging an Ohio law that criminalizes abortions if a doctor performing a termination is aware that the woman has received a diagnosis that her fetus has Down syndrome.

The Ohio state chapter of the American Civil Liberties union filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, arguing the law violated the liberty and privacy clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Cleveland abortion provider Preterm, seeks to delay enforcement of the law, which is scheduled to go into effect March 23.The law was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor John Kasich last December. Kasich had previously called the law “appropriate.”

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.

Under the law, doctors would lose their medical licenses in the state and face a fourth-degree felony charge if they were to perform an abortion with that knowledge. Mothers would not face criminal charges.

“If Ohio politicians wanted to proactively take a stance for people with disabilities, they should improve access to health care, education, or other services,” Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement. “This ban is just a thinly-veiled attempt to criminalize abortion in Ohio.”

Officials with the Ohio Attorney General’s office could not immediately be reached to comment.

Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis criticized the ACLU suit calling the act of ending a pregnancy after a Down syndrome diagnosis a “discriminatory abortion.”

“It is a shame that an organization that claims to be the very biggest and best at defending victims of discrimination completely disregards the most vulnerable members of our society,” he said in a statement.

The Ohio law marks the 20th restriction on abortion and reproductive rights signed by Kasich since 2011, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Similar laws have been passed in Indiana and North Dakota. An Indiana District Court issued a permanent injunction on a similar Down syndrome abortion ban on Sept. 22, 2017.

Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Ben Klayman and Susan Thomas

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