The topic of abortion often incites passion, and rarely yields consensus.  Unfortunately, it also entices misinformation, which has proven the case regarding my most recent legislation, House Bill 135.  The goal of the “Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act,” which I introduced with Representative Dave Hall of Millersburg, is not to curtail a woman’s “right to choose,” but rather to prevent one of the most egregious forms of discrimination.


Sadly, nearly 90 percent of families choose to abort their child when they learn it might have Down syndrome – a staggering figure that warrants action.  HB 135 simply clarifies that medical practitioners may not counsel or move forward with an abortion based solely on the diagnosis of Down syndrome.  There are no penalties or limits placed on women, contrary to what pro-choice groups have argued.  Instead, this bill focuses on medical providers, making it a fourth-degree felony for them to counsel abortion based solely on the potential diagnosis of Down syndrome.  Doctors found guilty will also lose their license to practice in Ohio.


Medical advances and an improved understanding of genetic disorders have greatly increased the life expectancy and quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome.   The most prevalent genetic disorder, we know far more about Down syndrome than we did just a few years ago.  When I was born in 1983, the average life expectancy for children with Down syndrome was 25 years. Today, it is over 60.  These individuals live long, fulfilling lives, bringing joy to those around them and gaining increased independence.


I do not underestimate the additional challenges associated with raising a child with Down syndrome, nor do I ignore that those challenges exist. It is not a task that every family is equipped to handle.  There are, however, many options available to those that find themselves in this situation.  In northeast Ohio, there is a group called the “Up Side of Downs,” providing support, education, and advocacy to help families facing this diagnosis.  Similar groups abound throughout the state.  There are also many dedicated, passionate individuals across our great state that would be ecstatic to adopt a child with Down syndrome.


Choosing who lives and dies based solely on a potential diagnosis is an abominable practice on par with sex-selective abortion, and I find it truly disheartening that there are so many in our great state and nation advocating such a position.  Eugenics rightfully fell by the wayside in the early twentieth century, and we ought not revive the practice in Ohio.  This bill is about discrimination, pure and simple, and I believe our great state is ready and willing to stand on the side of equality – inside and outside the womb.

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