August 25, 2015 — "It is tempting to dismiss the latest anti-choice salvo [HB 135] from Ohio lawmakers, which would criminalize abortions based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as a blatantly unconstitutional ploy that would never be enforced," but the measure "stands a disturbingly good chance of approval this fall," according to a New York Times editorial.
According to the editorial, the conservative-controlled Ohio Legislature "has been passing abortion restrictions as quickly as it can write them in the four-plus years since Gov. John Kasich [R] ... took office," imposing "all manner of obstacles in the way of women trying to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion." However, the new bill "would go even further, purporting to tell a woman that her personal, private reason for ending her pregnancy is not good enough," the editorial states.
The editorial continues that the Ohio proposal is similar to a 2013 North Dakota law (HB 1305) that "bans abortions on the grounds of fetal genetic anomalies, including Down syndrome." The North Dakota "law has not yet been enforced -- under existing Supreme Court precedent it is hard to see how it could be -- but as with so many restrictions on a woman's right to choose, that is not the only measure of its power," the editorial states.
The editorial explains that abortion-rights supporters "do not have the resources to challenge every one of the hundreds of restrictions that have been enacted around the country -- even those that are obviously unconstitutional." Meanwhile, "laws that target a woman's motives for ending a pregnancy can do great harm to the doctor-patient relationship," the editorial notes, adding, "Doctors may avoid offering appropriate services out of a fear of prosecution," while women may be forced to withhold information "in order to obtain safe and legal care."
The editorial states, "It is hard to imagine any other circumstance in which Americans would tolerate this sort of government intrusion." However, "this is precisely the dilemma that opponents of the right to choose aim to create: instilling guilt and fear in women making intensely personal and private decisions about their own bodies," the editorial continues.
While a majority of U.S. and Ohio residents "support a woman's right to choose," conservative Ohio lawmakers "have ignored their constituents and plowed ahead with 16 abortion restrictions, all signed by ... Kasich, since 2011." These restrictions "are part of a larger national effort to undermine reproductive rights and, eventually, to overturn Roe v. Wade in full -- a prospect that once seemed unimaginable," the editorial continues, adding, "But under a Supreme Court that has grown increasingly receptive to such boundary-pushing legislation, the future looks a lot like America before 1973" (New York Times, 8/25).