April 13, 2021
Ohio’s ban on abortions after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome doesn’t violate a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, a divided 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The law, passed by Ohio’s Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. John Kasich in 2017, imposes criminal penalties on doctors who perform abortions if they’re aware that a Down syndrome diagnosis, or the possibility of a diagnosis, is the reason for seeking the abortion. The penalty is a fourth-degree felony.
Four abortion providers filed suit, including Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. The law was blocked by a federal judge in March 2018, and the case has been tied up in federal court ever since.
On Tuesday, the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 that Ohio’s law did not “create a substantial obstacle to a woman’s ability to choose or obtain an abortion.” The appeals court reversed the injunction blocking the law from taking effect.
The court held that a woman’s right to an abortion is not absolute. Ohio’s law, which prevents a doctor from performing an abortion because of a Down syndrome diagnosis, is not an undue burden on the woman, wrote Judge Alice Batchelder, who was nominated by former President George H. W. Bush.
“By preventing the doctor from joining the woman as a knowing accomplice to her Down syndrome-selective decision making, House Bill 214 prevents this woman from making the doctor a knowing participant (accomplice) in her decision to abort her pregnancy because her fetus has Down syndrome,” Batchelder wrote. “As limitations or prohibitions go, this is specific and narrow.”
Batchelder argued the law only prevented doctors from knowingly performing an abortion because of Down syndrome, but if the woman doesn’t provide a reason, the abortion could still proceed.
Other judges were more forceful, comparing abortions to eugenics.
“Many think that eugenics ended with the horrors of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it did not,” wrote Judge Richard Allen Griffin, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush. “Eugenics was the root of the Holocaust and is a motivation for many of the selective abortions that occur today.”
Opponents of the law say they are consider their next legal steps.