Appeals court blocks Ohio Down syndrome abortion ban

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A federal appeals court on Friday ruled Ohio cannot enforce a law that would block doctors from performing abortions if the mother is seeking one because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. 

A panel of the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in a 2-1 decision upheld a preliminary injunction issued by a lower court last year blocking the state from enforcing the law. 

The state is expected to appeal the decision to the full court. 

Former Gov. John Kasich (R) signed the law in 2017 after the measure passed Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature. 

Under the law, a doctor could face felony charges if they perform an abortion knowing the mother wants one because the fetus has, or might have, Down syndrome. 

The court ruled Friday the law is likely unconstitutional and shouldn’t be enforced while legal challenges continue. 

“The Sixth Circuit was absolutely correct to continue to block this unconstitutional law that undermines the relationship between patients and their doctors,” said Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, which sued the state over the law.

Some states have passed similar laws hoping to press the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established the right to an abortion. 

But the Supreme Court in May declined to hear an appeal of a similar law from Indiana. 

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should have taken the case, writing that the law promoted the state’s “compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.” 

Ohio was also blocked this year from enforcing a separate “heartbeat” law that would ban abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy.  

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