A federal appeals court has upheld a judge's ruling putting on hold an Ohio law prohibiting abortions based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
In a 2 to 1 decision Friday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to block the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (HB 214) from going into effect.
The statute contains text prohibiting abortions “in whole or in part” due to “A test result indicating Down syndrome in an unborn child; A prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome in an unborn child; or Any other reason to believe that an unborn child has Down syndrome,” according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI). Violation of the law includes penalties such as loss of medical license and potential civil liability.
Leadership for Ohio Right to Life decried the ruling and urged the state to request a review by the full court.
"Unborn persons with Down Syndrome deserve the same protections afforded to those already born through the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Stephanie Ranade Krider, the group's vice president. "While we are obviously saddened by the decision of the Court, this serves to show the moral contradictions and outright discrimination imposed by abortion jurisprudence that sorely need to be settled."
Down syndrome is a condition in which an individual has an extra chromosome, changing how the baby’s body and brain develop, and it can cause both mental and physical challenges for the child.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the number of babies born in the United States with Down syndrome each year at about 6,000, or 1 out of every 700 babies.
Abortion rates for Down syndrome are high, with one estimate at some 67% of Down syndrome children aborted in the U.S., and CLI saying as of 2015 that it is estimated abortion following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome results in a 30% reduction in overall Down syndrome births.
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The Ohio legislation was signed into law in 2017 by then Governor John Kasich.
CLI reported earlier this year that five states had enacted legislation to prohibit targeting unborn children with Down syndrome through abortion. Of those states, Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Kentucky, the North Dakota law was the only one that has not been challenged in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued the Ohio Department of Health, the state medical board and county prosecutors over Ohio's law on behalf of Planned Parenthood and several other abortion providers.
The law was enjoined last year by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, and the state appealed to the 6th Circuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black said in the initial ruling that put the temporary hold on the law that states cannot limit a woman's access to abortion before viability, and that opponents of HB 214 are "highly likely" to successfully argue the law is unconstitutional.
“Because H.B. 214 prevents women from making the choice to terminate their pregnancy prior to viability, it is unconstitutional on its face,” Black wrote in a 22-page ruling, according to Reuters.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office said it will seek reconsideration by the full 6th Circuit, WOSU Radio reports.