Ohio legislature approves measure banning abortions on babies diagnosed with Down syndrome

(Reuters/Damir Sagolj)Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province August 3, 2014.

An Ohio bill that aims to ban abortions on unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome is now headed to the governor's desk after it was passed by the state legislature on Wednesday.

The Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act, also known as Senate Bill 164, was approved by the Senate by a vote of 20–12.

Under the legislation, a doctor who knowingly performs an abortion on an unborn child diagnosed with Down Syndrome could be charged with a fourth-degree felony and the state medical board would be required to revoke the doctor's license if convicted.

Republican Gov. John Kasich, who had described the legislation "appropriate" in recent weeks, had previously promised that he would sign such a measure. "I'm more than glad to say that, of course, I would sign that," he told CNN's Jake Tapper in September 2015, responding to a question former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose son has Down syndrome.

Pro-life groups hailed the passage of the bill and urged Kasich to sign it immediately.

"We commend Ohio lawmakers for moving to end lethal discrimination against unborn children with Down syndrome," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Washington D.C.-based group Susan B. Anthony List.

"Research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome are among the happiest people in the world and bring tremendous joy and love to their families – but, tragically, mixed messages from society and many in the medical community target them for abortion at alarming rates," she added.

Critics of the bill have argued that it disregards the circumstances surrounding each woman's pregnancy.

"This bill prevents a woman from having honest conversations about her options with her physician following a complicated medical diagnosis. Kasich should veto it," said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland in a statement.

Similar measures have been passed in Indiana and North Dakota, according to The Hill. However, the Indiana legislation has been challenged in court and has been found unconstitutional.

Kasich has 10 days to either sign or veto the legislation after receiving it on his desk. Last year, the governor had vetoed a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected because he was concerned about the costs of defending the measure in court.

A study published in 2012 in the medical journal "Prenatal Diagnosis" has indicated that American women choose to abort unborn babies between 50 to 84 percent of the time after receiving a fetal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. A report from CBS News drew controversy earlier this year after it was revealed that Iceland has a near-100 percent abortion rate for unborn babies with the genetic disorder.

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