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Law & the Courts

Federal Government Backs Ohio’s Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

(Photo: Katie Yoder)

The federal government on Tuesday threw its weight behind an Ohio law prohibiting abortions based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome, saying that the law does not present a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking an abortion.

The Justice Department took Ohio’s side in a lawsuit challenging the 2017 law, which has not yet taken effect, saying that the law would not prohibit any abortions but merely restrict abortion providers.

“The federal government has an interest in the equal dignity of those who live with disabilities,” the DOJ wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief. “Nothing in Ohio’s law creates a substantial obstacle to women obtaining an abortion, and nothing in the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent requires States to authorize medical providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome.”

The law “affirms that people with Down syndrome have lives worth living and protecting,” the Justice Department wrote. “The law also protects the medical profession from harm to its integrity and protects women from abortion providers who may seek to pressure them into obtaining an abortion because of Down syndrome.”

Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality in which a person is born with a third 21st chromosome, causing physical and mental developmental delays and other health issues.

Under the law, doctors who perform an abortion because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome diagnosis could be charged with a fourth-degree felony and lose their medical license.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of abortion giant Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The case will be heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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