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Front of Ohio State House. Lawn, building, and two American flags.

In December 2017, Ohio passed into law legislation that prohibited physicians from performing abortions if the pregnant woman’s decision was influenced by her belief that the fetus has Down syndrome. Physicians who perform abortions in these cases would face fourth-degree felony charges and revocation of their medical license. No other state bans abortion specifically for Down syndrome, but several ban abortions in cases of genetic diseases. Lower courts have struck down most such laws, holding they violate the constitutional rights of women. In February 2018, a federal district court judge blocked enforcement of Ohio’s law pending a final determination.

The Ohio statute raises compelling legal and ethical issues: Will it interfere with the patient-physician relationship and, in turn, the health outcomes of pregnant women and their children? Should women have to justify their reasons for terminating a pregnancy? The disability rights movement has challenged prevailing stereotypes and advocated for greater integration of persons with disabilities into society. Do these kinds of laws promote support for or detract from more inclusive, nondiscriminatory environments?

Down Syndrome: Current State of Knowledge

In the...