On Friday, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a controversial bill that will ban abortion of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome, intensifying the Republican Party’s national war on abortion.
The law is poised to make it a crime for any doctor to end a pregnancy due to Down syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes slow mental and physical development in addition to medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory problems.
Kasich is attempting to make performing an abortion in such cases a fourth-degree felony in the state, punishable with prison time and carrying a mandatory revocation of doctor’s licenses.
Women who receive such abortions will not be punished. The law goes into effect in 90 days.
Kasich appears to have been under pressure from the far right to sign the bill. The usually-centrist Governor chose to veto a bill in 2016 which would have banned abortion procedures after six weeks of gestation.
Ohio Right to Life, a anti-abortion lobbying group, said in a statement that the bill’s passage into law was a victory. “Now that the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act is law, unborn babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are given a shot at life,” said President and spokesman Mike Gonidakis.
However, it seems clear that Republican groups have pushed for the move simply to ban as many abortion procedures as possible.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio’s Kellie Copeland points out that families will now be exploited by the GOP “as part of a larger anti-choice strategy to systematically make all abortion care illegal.”
“This law shames women and will have a chilling effect on the conversations between doctors and patients because of the criminal penalties that doctors will face.”
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Reproductive rights advocates argue that the law not only is illegal, but interferes with women’s ability to have honest conversations with their doctors should they discover they’re carrying a fetus with Down syndrome. “When a woman receives a diagnosis of Down syndrome during her pregnancy, the last thing she needs is Gov. Kasich barging in to tell her what’s best for her family,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement.
Anti-abortion advocates admit their larger goal is eliminating abortion altogether. “It’s a part of the puzzle to us coming toward seeing an end to abortion,” Angela Boblitt, a pro-life activist.
Kasich also recently signed a “20-week abortion ban” in Ohio.