Governor John Kasich of Ohio signed into law controversial legislation that prohibits doctors from performing abortions based on the probability of Down syndrome. The pro-life movement calls it a win, but is it?
Senate Bill 164
The bill itself – boasting the short title “Prohibit abortion if unborn has or may have Down Syndrome” – is relatively straightforward in its approach to the issue. Beginning 90 days after the December 22 signing, any doctor who performs an abortion because the unborn child has or may have Down syndrome is guilty of a fourth-degree felony – punishable by up to 18 months incarceration. Additionally, the state would revoke the doc’s medical license.
The bill passed the state legislature much in the manner one might expect for such a measure. It cleared the House with 12 yeas to 6 nays – no Republican voted against it and no Democrat for it. It passed the Senate nearly 2:1 as well – 20:12. Again, not a single Democrat was for it, though three Republicans vote nay. It was unclear, initially whether Gov. Kasich would sign the bill, as he had previously expressed concerns that it might be found unconstitutional – the same concerns that led him to veto another abortion restriction last year.
Eradicating Down Syndrome
Back in August, Liberty Nation’s Gabriella Fiorino poked a few holes in a CBS story boasting that Iceland had come close to eradicating Down syndrome through abortion. As she pointed out, the disorder is not heritable. No amount of selective breeding or abortion can truly eliminate it from the population – there will always be a chance that an unborn child will have it.
Aborting children with the disorder is just killing them for being disabled. The intended purpose of this bill is to safeguard against precisely that discrimination. What’s the problem then?
GOP legislators have passed a lot of laws at the state level – and liberal federal judges have quickly blocked many of them. Could it happen to this one? Sure. The ACLU of Ohio is already working on its case, according to Fox:
A statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Friday said that Kasich had signed a “blatantly unconstitutional bill.” The civil rights group said it was coordinating with its legal staff and coalition partners to determine the next steps.
Another issue – this one with the law itself – is that it seems easily circumvented. The bill doesn’t explicitly prohibit an abortion if the child has the disorder – only if the decision to abort is because of it.
“This law shames women and will have a chilling effect on the conversations between doctors and patients because of the criminal penalties that doctors will face,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. And she has a point. That is indeed one possible outcome, especially if the doctor who performs the abortion isn’t the one who discovered that the child has the disorder.
The law establishes that unborn children with Down syndrome are still people, and therefore deserving of a shot at life. It puts having an abortion over the disability on the same ethical level as killing anyone else who has a disability. But it only holds the doctors criminally liable. The mothers are not held accountable for making the decision. This reinforces the idea that women have the constitutional right to choose abortion. They do not.
Fewer Abortions is Fewer Abortions
Killing someone for merely having a disability is reprehensible – even if that someone has yet to be born. The idea behind the law seems noble enough – but the implementation is weak. Still, every life saved by this measure can be counted as a win by the pro-life folks. More importantly, it’s a victory for one individual who, without it, would not exist.