Panel OKs ban on abor­tions to pre­vent Down syn­drome

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Megan Henry Megan Henry is a fel­low in the E.W. Scripps State­house News Bureau. mhenry@dis­patch.com @megankhenry

De­spite not re­ceiv­ing a party-line vote, the Ohio Se­nate ver­sion of a bill that would ban abor­tions if the un­born child has Down syn­drome moved one step closer to be­ing signed into law.

A bill that would fur­ther chip away at abor­tion in the state is now on its way to a vote by the full Se­nate af­ter win­ning ini­tial ap­proval Tues­day in the Health, Hu­man Ser­vices and Med­i­caid Com­mit­tee in an 8-4 vote. Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hil­liard, strayed from her party and voted no.

Se­nate Bill 164, spon­sored by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hud­son, would pro­hibit a per­son from per­form­ing or at­tempt­ing to per­form or in­duce an abor­tion on a woman whose un­born child has or might have Down syn­drome. Vi­o­la­tors would face a fourth-de­gree felony, and the state med­i­cal board would be re­quired to take away a con­victed physi­cian’s li­cense to prac­tice medicine in Ohio.

An iden­ti­cal bill passed in the Ohio House ear­lier this month, and this is Ohio’s Right to Life’s top leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity this year.

“We’re blessed that both cham­bers of the leg­is­la­tor are on the cusp of pass­ing this bill to get to Gov. Ka­sich right be­fore Christ­mas time,” said Ohio Right to Life Pres­i­dent Mike Gonidakis.

Down syn­drome is a ge­netic dis­or­der that is caused when ab­nor­mal cell di­vi­sion re­sults in an ex­tra full or par­tial copy of chro­mo­some 21. Those with Down syn­drome have an in­creased risk for med­i­cal con­di­tions in­clud­ing con­gen­i­tal heart de­fects, and res­pi­ra­tory and hear­ing prob­lems; Alzheimer’s dis­ease; child­hood leukemia; and thy­roid con­di­tions. Down syn­drome is the most com­mon chro­mo­so­mal con­di­tion in the United States; about 1 in 700 ba­bies in the United States is born with it, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

The com­mit­tee heard five wit­nesses be­fore vot­ing — two in fa­vor of the bill, two against the bill and one in­ter­ested party who re­mained neu­tral.

Anne Chas­ser, whose brother has Down syn­drome, tes­ti­fied that when Christo­pher Chas­ser was born, doc­tors rec­om­mended that her brother be placed in an in­sti­tu­tion. In­stead, her par­ents took him home, where he lived un­til he moved into a group home when he was 29.

“My main con­cern about this leg­is­la­tion is the im­pact it would have on women, es­pe­cially women who do not have the ca­pac­ity, abil­ity, fam­ily sup­port, com­mu­nity net­work or other re­sources to pro­vide a pro­duc­tive, happy life for a child with Down syn­drome,” Chas­ser said.

Stand­ing next to two of their daugh­ters, in­clud­ing one with Down syn­drome, Larry and Jackie Keough spoke in fa­vor of the bill.

“We ask each of you to sup­port SB 164 that would stop the geno­ci­dal prac­tice of abort­ing un­born chil­dren with Down syn­drome,” Jackie Keough said. “By do­ing so, this can be a crit­i­cal step to elim­i­nate abor­tion based on in­di­vid­ual ge­netic make up.”

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