The entire Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments for and against Ohio's ban on abortions involving babies with Down syndrome.
A panel of judges at the Sixth Circuit agreed last fall with a lower court in stopping the 2017 law, which prohibits doctors from performing an abortion if they're aware of a Down syndrome diagnosis and/or the possibility that it is influencing the decision to abort. Doctors would face criminal penalties and legal damages. The pregnant mother would not face any criminal liability.
"En banc reviews are a big deal for us," says Allie Frazier, director of communications at Ohio Right to Life. "… If the law is upheld, [it] could actually have an effect on other states' legislation …. So that is what we're really excited about."
The U.S. Justice Department sided with Ohio's law in January. However, opponents of the law say it amounts to an illegal "reason ban," one that aims to get inside the woman's mind and prevents her from speaking freely with her doctor.
"The bottom line is it's fatal discrimination," Frazier argues. "Abortions with a Down syndrome diagnosis are very, very common. In the United States, I believe it's anywhere from between 60% to 90% of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero are aborted – and that is tragic."
The ACLU of Ohio, Preterm-Cleveland, and other abortion providers brought the lawsuit.
According to The Associated Press, a group of mothers whose children have a Down syndrome diagnosis sided with the organizations that brought the suit.
"They argue the law - dubbed the 'Ohio Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act' - actually perpetuates discrimination against their children by singling out their genetic anomaly over others," AP reports.