- Laura A. Bischoff Columbus bureau
The Ohio Senate voted 20-12 in favor of a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions on women who want to terminate their pregnancies because Down syndrome has been detected.
The bill, which already cleared the Ohio House on a 64-31 vote on Nov. 30, will now go to Gov. John Kasich for consideration.
The latest ban comes a year after Kasich signed a law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks into pregnancy. And abortion opponents are on the verge of convincing lawmakers to adopt other restrictions.
Opponents, including the ACLU of Ohio and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the Down syndrome bill is unconstitutional, vague and broadly written. “This is another unconstitutional step toward taking a woman’s right to choose away,” said state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who voted against the bill.
The bill is backed by Ohio Right to Life.
The legislation would make it a felony to perform an abortion for a woman who is seeking it because she has reason to believe the fetus has Down syndrome. The state Medical Board would be required to revoke the physician’s license. Doctors would be required attest and report to the Ohio Department of Health that in each abortion performed the woman wasn’t seeking it because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Also under consideration is House Bill 258 to ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, which is often before a woman knows she is pregnant, and a Senate Bill 145 to ban dilation and evacuation, a surgical procedure commonly used in second trimester abortions.
The heart beat bill cleared the Ohio House Health Committee on Wednesday morning on a 12-5 vote. It is unclear when it might receive a floor vote from the full House.
Kasich, who opposes abortion, has signed more than a dozen abortion restrictions into law, put the president of Ohio Right to Life on the state medical board and Ohio has seen half of its abortion clinics close during Kasich’s tenure.
In December 2016, Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill, saying it ran contrary to U.S. Supreme Court rulings and similar legislation had been struck down as unconstitutional in other states. Lawmakers in the Ohio House declined to return to Columbus over the holiday break last year to override the veto.
Kasich also signed into law a ban on abortion after 20-weeks gestation — a month earlier than what is generally considered to be the point of viability of a fetus outside the womb. The ban did not include an exception for the victims of rape or incest.
A total of 20,672 abortions were reported in Ohio in 2016, a 1-percent decline over 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The number of reported abortions has steadily declined over the past two decades in Ohio, state reports show.
At the same time lawmakers consider enacting new restrictions on abortion, the Ohio Supreme Court is expected to rule on two key cases that justices heard in September: Capital Care Network of Toledo versus the Ohio Department of Health and Preterm-Cleveland Inc. versus Kasich. Typically, rulings are released three to six months after oral arguments.
Preterm is challenging the constitutionality of including abortion restrictions in the state budget bill, saying it violates the Ohio Constitution’s single-subject rule. The restrictions include mandating clinics have written transfer agreements with local hospitals; barring public hospitals from providing such agreements; and mandating doctors inform patients about a detectable heartbeat before performing an abortion.
Capital Care Network is challenging the state decision to revoke its license when the clinic failed to get a transfer agreement with a local hospital.