Abortion Bills in the Ohio Legislature

Total Induced Abortions in Ohio

Information provided by the Ohio Department of Health

Gary Daniel
Emilia Sykes



The Ohio General Assembly is currently working on identical bills that bans abortions on the unborn if diagnosed or suspected of having Down syndrome.

According to the language in House Bill 214 and Senate Bill 164, both bills “prohibit a person from performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman who is seeking the abortion because an unborn child has or may have Down Syndrome.”

The Senate voted 20-12 to approve Senate Bill 164 on Nov. 15; House Bill 164 passed on Nov. 1 on a 63-30 vote respectively. Ohio Republicans, who control both chambers, now must decide which bill goes to Ohio Governor John Kasich’s desk to either be signed into law or vetoed. If either bill is signed into law, Ohio would be the fourth state to ban abortions on the basis of genetic abnormalities.

The sponsors of the House Bill are Representative Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township). Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) is the Senate Bill’s sponsor.

        Physicians found in violation of the proposed legislation could possibly be charged with a fourth-degree felony which carries prison time up to 18 months and civil damages; women who seek out abortions wouldn’t face any charges. Physicians are also eligible to have their practicing license revoked.

        “There’s concern from patient advocates and medical professionals that this will lead to less communication between a woman and her doctor rather than an adequate amount of communication,“ Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist at the ACLU of Ohio, said. ”Because if the woman is aware of this law and is seeking an abortion, she might not be totally upfront to her doctor about why she’s seeking an abortion.”

        Proponents of the bills argue that it would end discrimination against unborn children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome and help address the negative stigma associated with the disorder. According to Rep. LaTourette’s press release, House Bill 214 would also “requires medical professionals to distribute up-to-date, evidence-based information on Down syndrome to parents who receive the diagnosis.”

        “We’re a big proponent of the bill so we believe that this bill will make a big step with discrimination on babies who are pre diagnosed with Down syndrome.” Ohio Right to Life Director of Communications Jamieson Weaver said, adding that individuals with Down syndrome are growing few due to abortions.

“Just a really staggering high number (of abortions) and with a report of CBS a couple months ago on how Down syndrome has been eradicated because a large amount of women choose abortions when they find out the baby might have down syndrome. It’s hard because as a society we’re pushing for the Special Olympics and the inclusion of people with Down syndrome as we should be.” Weaver said. “But at the same time we have people who are arguing that because people aren’t perfect, having a genetic abnormality, they shouldn’t have the right to life. It something we’re fighting and why we’re a big proponent of the bill.”

A prevalent concern shared among pro-life advocates is the legal standing of the law.

“There’s a lot of variables in play with not this particular bill but any time like this pops up that maintaining that its constitutional or not unconstitutional. That said, the legislature passes bills frequently that people believe are unconstitutional.” Daniels said. “I’ve gone and testify on numerous bills over the last eight or nine years and said under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, and this is the way it’s been all along: the court is concerned with the division of pre viability of the fetus and post viability of the fetus.”

Representative Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) also argues that these bills would be challenged in court.

“It’s a violation of a woman’s right to choice and would ruin the relationship between a woman and her doctor.” Sykes said.

According to Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, Ohio currently has eight restrictions on abortions and is following a downward trend where abortions are decreasing nationwide.

“We’re really encouraged to where we able to pass 19 pro-life initiatives within the last seven years and decrease abortion in Ohio by 25 percent.” Weaver said. “Which is really encouraging and I think that everyone across the board would like to see less abortion, so it’s been nice to see the movement like this across the nation.”

Daniels also recognizes the trend across the nation but attributes it to the legal wiggle room left by the Supreme Court. “You’re just introducing another unconstitutional bill that’s going to cost Ohio however much in legal fees and etc.” Daniel said.

Governor Kasich has in the past exercised his veto power to reject abortion restrictions such as the controversial heartbeat bill which emerged last year, but thoughts on the matter vary in regards of what he’ll do. Indiana had passed a similar law but was struck down as unconstitutional.

Daniel states that eventually the pro-life advocates would like to their day in the Supreme Court but doesn’t see it coming anytime soon. According to the Supreme Court, 7,000 to 8,000 petitions are sent to the Supreme Court but about 80 cases are heard. If a case looks favorable and is clear with the facts and its circumstances, “That will pique the interest of the Supreme Court so what will the Supreme Court do is they say hey we can’t have this being patchwork across the country.” Daniel said. “We have to hear the case and blanket it over the country one way or the other. That’s what the proponent of the bills hope for but right now there has been no split in the court.”