Lawmakers in Ohio are considering legislation that would make aborting Down syndrome babies illegal.
The bill, if passed, would penalize doctors for performing abortions on pregnant women who received a positive test that their baby will have Down syndrome.
The state would not fine or punish a woman who aborts the baby after receiving a positive test for the congenital disorder. The doctor who performs the abortion, however, would be held responsible and could receive a fourth-degree felony charge. Officials could fine the doctor and even prevent the physician from continuing to practice medicine, according to the Associated Press.
“[Doctors] tell you of these horrific things that can happen [with a Down syndrome baby] … the different anomalies, cardiac issues … I really feel like you’re given a death sentence,” Ohio nurse Kelly Kuhns told the Associated Press.
Kuhns, 36, received a positive test for Down syndrome during her fourth pregnancy and now has a 2-year-old son with Down syndrome. Her son, Oliver, has led a “pretty normal life,” according to the news agency.
Kuhns supports the legislation and has testified before lawmakers in favor of the bill.
“We were told of all the different therapies [Oliver] would need and all the additional work that would be involved,” she said. “But we were never told how amazing our lives would be with Oliver in it. Nobody told me my face would hurt from smiling at him.”
CBS News touted the fact that few countries “have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland,” and reported that almost all women in this country who receive a positive test for the disease abort their child. After the CBS News report from mid-August, lawmakers accelerated the Ohio bill, according to state Sen. Frank LaRose, one of the bill’s sponsors.
“Some of the sweetest, kindest people I know have Down syndrome,” said LaRose, a Republican. “It’s just very unsettling for some of us that people in our society are going to make a decision that this life is worth something and this life is not worth something based on this genetic abnormality.”
Aborting babies because a child has Down syndrome is “a modern-day form of eugenics,” said Dennis Sullivan, a physician and bioethicist at Cedarville University, the Associated Press notes. As of 2015, France had a 77 percent termination rate and Denmark a 98 percent termination rate for unborn Down syndrome babies.
In the United Kingdom, 90 percent of pregnant women with a positive Down syndrome test receive an abortion, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.
Others in the medical profession don’t agree and fear that if the law is passed it won’t stop abortions but will prevent doctors and patients from sharing information with each other.
“These ‘reason bans’ represent gross interference in the patient-physician relationship, creating a system in which patients and physicians are forced to withhold information or outright lie in order to ensure access to care,” said Mark DeFrancesco, the 2016 president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Indiana and North Dakota have similar laws to the bill under consideration in Ohio. Indiana’s law, however, has been blocked by a federal judge who ruled the court cannot prevent a woman from getting an abortion based on particular reasons.
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