COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio woman who learns her unborn child has Down syndrome would not be allowed to terminate the pregnancy under legislation sought by the state's largest anti-abortion group.
A yet-to-be introduced bill would prohibit abortions sought because a pre-natal screening or diagnostic test showed the fetus could have Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21. The genetic disorder causes developmental delays and intellectual disability of varying degrees.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said details such as how the law would be enforced are still being determined as the bill is drafted. Gonidakis said any penalties would be for the physician, not the woman, consistent with other legislation the group has supported."Everyone wants to be born perfect and none of us are, and we don't think we should devalue life based on a false sense of perfection," Gonidakis said.
Ohio Right to Life listed the proposal as one of its six legislative priorities for 2015. Rep. Sarah LaTourette, a Bainbridge Township Republican, plans to sponsor the legislation.
Abortion rates after learning of a possible Down syndrome diagnosis range from 61 to 93 percent, according to a 2012 survey of abortion studies published in the journal Prenatal Diagnosis. The state does not keep statistics on reasons women seek abortion or whether aborted fetuses had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.Kellie Copeland, executive director of abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the proposal interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.
"Medical decisions have to be made in these cases by women and their physicians," Copeland said. "The idea that any piece of legislation could take into account all the factors in a medical diagnosis is absurd."
Screening tests, which indicate the probability of Down syndrome, can be conducted in the first few months of pregnancy. Diagnostic tests that identify genetic abnormalities are often conducted later -- as late as 22 weeks into a pregnancy -- and can cause miscarriage.
Ohio would be the second state in the U.S., following North Dakota, to ban abortion for fetuses with Down syndrome. North Dakota's 2013 ban went a step further and banned abortions sought because of the sex of the fetus or a diagnosis of a genetic abnormality, including Down syndrome.From the North Dakota law:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a physician may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion with knowledge that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely:
a. On account of the sex of the unborn child; or
b. Because the unborn child has been diagnosed with either a genetic abnormality or a potential for a genetic abnormality."
Similar legislation was introduced last year in Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota and failed to pass. Legislation has been reintroduced this year in Indiana and Missouri.