ACLU files lawsuit challenging Ohio ban on abortions due to Down syndrome

COLUMBUS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The lawsuit was filed against the state Health Department, state medical board and county prosecutors by Planned Parenthood and several individual abortion providers.

It calls the 2017 law “Ohio’s latest attempt to prevent women from exercising their constitutionally protected right to an abortion” and argues it prevents abortion providers “from providing nonjudgmental, medically appropriate care.”

“All it does is move the locus of personal, medical decision-making from the patient to the legislature, in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” according to the complaint.

The law, signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in December, makes it a crime for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy based on knowledge of Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

It makes performing an abortion in such cases a fourth-degree felony and requires the state medical board to revoke the physician’s license if convicted.

The measure was championed by Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, which argued it will prevent discrimination based on misinformation.

North Dakota and Indiana were ahead of Ohio in passing similar restrictions.

The Indiana law, enacted in 2016, has been blocked by a federal judge, who said the state has no right to limit women’s reasons for terminating pregnancies. The state has appealed.

North Dakota’s law went into effect in 2013 and has not been challenged. That state’s sole abortion clinic, in Fargo, says the issue hasn’t arisen under its policy of not performing abortions after 16 weeks into a pregnancy.

A bill similar to Ohio’s is moving through the Utah Legislature.

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