A soon-to-be-effective state law prohibiting abortion for women seeking the procedure because of a Down syndrome diagnosis is being challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on behalf of several abortion providers in Ohio.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on February 15, says House Bill (HB) 214 places an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to abortion, “striking at the very heart of the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy and autonomy.”
HB 214 makes performing an abortion because of a Down syndrome diagnosis a criminal act subjecting the physician to fourth degree felony charge, revocation of medical license, and possible civil penalties. Signed into law by Governor Kasich, the law is effective Friday, March 23.
On October 11, 2017, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians President Don Mack, MD, and OAFP Past President Sarah Sams, MD, presented testimony before the House Health Committee in opposition to HB 214. Similar written testimony was submitted for the consideration of the Senate Health Committee. Testimony focused on the bill’s negative impact and inappropriate intrusion into the patient-physician relationship and the fact that the bill undermines a patient’s ability to consult with her physician and criminalizes a physician for discussing a legal, safe, and appropriate health care service with their patients.
HB 214 prohibits a doctor from performing the medical procedure if they know the woman is seeking an abortion because of a test result indicating Down syndrome in the fetus, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, or any other reason the woman believes the fetus has Down syndrome.
The OAFP follows the American Academy of Family Physicians policy on the criminalization of medical practice which states “the AAFP takes all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure that medical decision-making and treatment, exercised in good faith, does not become a violation of criminal law.”