All 15 6th Circuit Court Judges Hear Ohio Down Syndrome Abortion Ban Arguments

Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Friday, March 13, 2020
All 15 6th Circuit Court Judges Hear Ohio Down Syndrome Abortion Ban Arguments

All 15 6th Circuit Court Judges Hear Ohio Down Syndrome Abortion Ban Arguments

All 15 judges of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals listened this week to arguments over an Ohio law that would outlaw abortions on babies with Down syndrome.

According to the Associated Press, the law prevents abortion providers from performing an abortion if they are aware that a Down syndrome diagnosis, or the possibility of a Down syndrome diagnosis, is influencing the woman’s decision.

Under the law, abortion providers who perform an abortion on the babies could face a fourth-degree felony charge and lose their medical license.

Federal attorneys, however, say the law is unconstitutional because it doesn’t seek to ban all abortion, but selectively chooses circumstances surrounding abortions, CBN News reports.

Justice Department attorney Alexander Maugeri said at the hearing that the “Ohio law serves an important purpose” because it lets people with Down Syndrome know they “have lives that are worth living.”

Opponents of the law, however, say it is a “reason ban” and doesn’t allow a woman to make her own decision.

Jessie Hill, an attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, argued that the law could “cut off communication between a woman and her doctor.” 

A group of mothers whose children have Down syndrome joined with the ACLU against the law, saying it actually perpetuates discrimination against Down syndrome children.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, said legally, the Down syndrome law is not an outright ban on abortion — since the prohibition depends on the doctor’s knowledge of the diagnosis.

In previous decisions, a federal judge and a three-judge panel ruled the Ohio law is likely unconstitutional.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department said: “Nothing in Ohio’s law creates a substantial obstacle to women obtaining an abortion.”

The appellate judges from this week did not say when they might have a ruling on the case.

Down syndrome happens in about one in 700 U.S. babies or about 6,000 babies each year.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tatiana Dyuvbanova 

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.