A bill approved in June by a health committee in the Ohio House of Representatives, on a bipartisan 9-3 vote, would ban physicians from performing abortions on women who want to terminate their pregnancy because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The legislation shifts the reproductive rights conversation from its typical preoccupation with time frame and viability to the more nebulous question of a woman’s motivation for ending a pregnancy.
“This is a new type of attack on access to abortion care,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights advocacy group. “It’s restricting access to abortion based on the reason that a woman makes a decision.”
The bill, which was written with the help of Ohio Right to Life, is expected to pass the Ohio state legislature—more than two-thirds of whose members have been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee—before heading to Kasich for a signature.
Since entering office in 2011 Kasich has signed every anti-abortion measure that has landed on his desk, enacting a total of 16 restrictions that limit abortion access and family planning opportunities, and resulting in the closure of half the state’s abortion clinics. There is little reason to think this bill will be different.
Ohio, a state often considered ground zero for anti-abortion legislation, finds itself at the center of the latest reproductive rights controversy—one that could force its governor, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, to take an uncomfortably public stance.