Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed into law a ban on abortions if the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb — even as critics warn that the measure could be unconstitutional.
The law, which is set to take effect in 90 days, will not only bar women from seeking an abortion following a diagnosis of Down syndrome — a genetic disorder that results in a number of developmental, intellectual and physical abnormalities, according to the Mayo Clinic — but also slap physicians who perform the procedure with felony criminal charges, the Cincinatti Enquirer reports.
Under the law, doctors could face 18 months in prison, a $5,000 fine, the loss of their medical license and potential lawsuits in the event of patient injury or death.
A federal judge in Indiana struck down similar legislation, the Chicago Tribune reports, deeming it unconstitutional. (The state’s attorney general has said he will appeal the decision.) A ban is on the books in North Dakota, the Enquirer adds, but it is not enforced because the state’s only abortion clinic does not perform the procedure after 16 weeks of pregnancy. Down syndrome is often diagnosed between the 15th and 20th weeks, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Kasich has long supported such legislation, even though he declined to sign “the heartbeat bill,” which would have prevented abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected, for fear it would be found unconstitutional, according to the Enquirer.
Down syndrome and abortions has always been a controversial topic. While many experts believe women should have ultimate say over the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy, some Down syndrome advocates fear that children with the condition are in danger of disappearing.