A U.S. appellate court on Tuesday upheld an Ohio law that prohibits abortions that are performed because of fetal Down syndrome.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ohio’s Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act in a ruling that split 9-7, a decision that overturned a panel that had previously ruled against the law, which bans a physician in Ohio from aborting a pregnancy if they know that the pregnant woman made the decision due to fetal Down syndrome.
The ruling "has the potential to pose a significant challenge to Roe v. Wade," according to Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser told CNN that, "This law includes reasonable, compassionate measures to prevent lethal discrimination in the womb."
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement: "Everyone's situation is different and we should all have the freedom to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families, especially when it comes to a personal decision like abortion."
"In certain countries, children with Down syndrome are being devastatingly eliminated from the population," said Chuck Donovan, president of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute. "Justice Clarence Thomas has confirmed this is an issue of first impression and it remains an ‘open question' whether states may implement protections such as these. We are encouraged by this ruling and hope the Supreme Court will now weigh in on this important human rights issue."
"[The law] furthers three valid and legitimate interests by protecting: (1) the Down syndrome community from the stigma associated with the practice of Down-syndrome-selective abortions, (2) pregnant women and their families from coercion by doctors who advocate abortion of Down-syndrome-afflicted fetuses, and (3) the integrity and ethics of the medical profession by preventing doctors from becoming witting participants in Down-syndrome-selective abortions," reads the court’s opinion, which was written by Circuit Judge Alice Batchelder. "[The law] allows doctors to perform such abortions when they do not know that Down syndrome is the reason, without undermining [the law's] specific purposes or objectives."
The Supreme Court has previously ruled in favor of protecting abortion choice within the first few weeks of pregnancy in decisions that date back to 1973.
In the dissenting opinion, Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote that "At least some of the six judges who joined the lead opinion in full seemingly would never concede that an abortion ban or regulation should be found unconstitutional under any fathomable test — here or in any other abortion case. The language of the majority and some of the concurrences betrays the elephant in the courtroom: some members of the judiciary do not believe that the right to abortion should exist."
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