Judge blocks Ohio’s Down syndrome abortion ban

Ohio’s new Down syndrome abortion ban is on hold after a federal judge in Cincinnati sided with abortion providers who claimed the ban was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday blocking the new law from going into effect next week while the case continues. Black wrote in a 22-page order that House Bill 214, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich in December, violates Supreme Court opinions that say a state can’t prohibit a woman from making the decision to end a pregnancy before the fetus is viable.

“Here, Ohio’s new law wrongfully does just that: it violates the right to privacy of every woman in Ohio and is unconstitutional on its face,” Black wrote.

The Ohio Attorney’s General Office has promised to appeal the decision.

The Ohio law bans abortions after a prenatal screening or test shows the fetus likely has Down syndrome. Doctors who perform an abortion, with knowledge of a possible Down syndrome diagnosis, could be convicted of a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Supporters of the law said it ended discrimination against unborn children with the genetic anomaly. Ohio does not keep statistics on reasons women seek abortion or whether aborted fetuses had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Nationally, abortion rates after learning of a possible Down syndrome diagnosis likely range from 50 to 85 percent, according to a 2012 survey of abortion studies.

The ACLU of Ohio sued the state in February on behalf of Preterm Cleveland, Planned Parenthood of Ohio Southwest Region, Women’s Med Center of Dayton, Dr. Roslyn Kade and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. They argued the law would force Ohio women to travel out of state for abortions or force women to continue pregnancies against their will.

Three other states have passed similar laws, but none have taken effect. Laws are on hold in Indiana and Louisiana pending court challenges.

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