Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the “Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act” into law Friday, outlawing selective abortions performed on babies diagnosed with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.
The act, also known as House Bill 214, amends Ohio law to “prohibit a person from performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman who is seeking the abortion because an unborn child has or may have Down Syndrome.”
“While every unborn child deserves protection from abortion death, House Bill 214 is helpful in protecting those targeted for destruction due to cultural bigotry against babies identified before birth as ‘abnormal’ or ‘imperfect’ due to a Down Syndrome prediction,” noted Cincinnati Right to Life.
The bill, which passed the state Senate 20-12 this month, targets only doctors who perform abortions chosen because the unborn child is expected to have Down syndrome. Women seeking an abortion are not subject to penalties under the new law.
The abortionist in such a case could face a fourth-degree felony charge and could lose his or her license.
“Now that the Down syndrome Non-Discrimination Act is law, unborn babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are given a shot at life,” said Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life. “Ohio is and will continue to be a state that sees the lives of people with Down syndrome as lives worth living, thanks to this legislation.”
In 2013, North Dakota became the first state in the U.S. to ban abortions on babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law.
Indiana followed suit in 2016 with a state law banning gender-selective abortions and those based on a prenatal diagnosis of disabilities such as Down syndrome, but the law was blocked by a federal judge in September following a lawsuit brought by abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, an Obama appointee, issued a permanent injunction against Indiana’s “Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban,” claiming that provisions of the law “violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The Indiana act was signed into law in 2016 by Vice President Mike Pence, who was governor at the time, and banned abortions based on the sex or race of the child or a prenatal diagnosis of “Down syndrome or any other disability.”
In her ruling, Judge Pratt defended sex-selective and disability-based abortions, stating that “it is a woman’s right to choose an abortion that is protected, which, of course, leaves no room for the State to examine, let alone prohibit, the basis or bases upon which a woman makes her choice.”
“The right to a pre-viability abortion is categorical,” Pratt declared, regardless of the particular motivation that drives a woman to seek it.
Prior to the Ohio Senate vote last week, Rep. Sarah LaTourette, a Republican who introduced the House bill, acknowledged the difficulties faced by parents of a child with Down syndrome but emphasized the good of the child as well as expanding options for families in this situation.
“A diagnosis of Down syndrome for your unborn child can be devastating and life-changing. Not everyone is equipped to handle this lifelong commitment, but thankfully, as you can see, there are now many options available to families,” LaTourette said.
“I believe that life begins at conception and that abortion should never be considered an option,” she stated, adding:
However, regardless of if you agree with me or not, I hope that you can see that this is not an issue about abortion; it is an issue of discrimination—discriminating against a person, not allowing them their God-given right to life, simply because they might have Down syndrome.
The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen dramatically in recent decades, thanks to developments in the medical field. Moreover, studies have found that people with Down syndrome report high levels of happiness and personal satisfaction, as do their family members.
In early October, President Donald Trump issued a powerful statement in defense of people with Down syndrome, calling for an end to discrimination based on genetic anomalies.
“Sadly, there remain too many people – both in the United States and throughout the world – that still see Down syndrome as an excuse to ignore or discard human life,” Trump said in an official statement recognizing Down Syndrome Awareness Month. “This sentiment is and will always be tragically misguided. We must always be vigilant in defending and promoting the unique and special gifts of all citizens in need.”
“We should not tolerate any discrimination against them, as all people have inherent dignity,” the president added.
In August, CBS News aired a report revealing that nearly 100 percent of pregnant women in Iceland whose babies test positive for Down syndrome end up aborting their children, a statistic that was lauded as a sign of “progress.”
“My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society—that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” said Kari Stefansson, a geneticist and the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes.
The first “National Down Syndrome Month” was celebrated in the U.S. in 1984, after President Ronald Reagan signed a congressional joint resolution proclaiming the commemoration. It has been more than ten years since another U.S. president officially marked the celebration.
In his October statement, President Trump noted “the significant contributions that people with Down syndrome make to their families, to their communities, and to our Nation.”
“We also salute the family members, caregivers, medical professionals, and advocates who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that these extraordinary people enjoy lives filled with love and increasing opportunity,” he said.
“This month,” he said, “we renew our Nation’s strong commitment to promoting the health, well-being, and inherent dignity of all children and adults with Down syndrome.”
Trump said that a key aim of the month is to “increase public awareness regarding the true nature of this condition, and to dispel the stubborn myths” that still surround it.
“The approximately 250,000 Americans with Down syndrome truly embody the great spirit of our Nation,” Trump wrote.
“They inspire joy, kindness, and wonder in our families, our workplaces, and our communities. We will always endeavor to make sure that their precious gifts are never maligned or taken for granted,” he said.
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