By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Women in Ohio would be prohibited from receiving abortions because of a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis under a bill that passed the state senate on Wednesday and is heading to Republican Governor John Kasich’s desk.
Lawmakers voted 20-12 in favor of the law, which criminalizes abortion if the physician has knowledge that the procedure is being sought due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.
Doctors would lose their medical licenses in the state and face a fourth-degree felony charge under the law if they were to perform an abortion with that knowledge. Mothers would not face criminal charges.
The bill makes Ohio the third state to pass a law outlawing abortions due to fetal anomalies. Similar laws were passed in Indiana and North Dakota. The Indiana provision was struck down by a U.S. District Judge in September after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Kasich spokesman Jon Keeling declined to say whether the governor would sign the measure into law. He added that when Kasich was asked about a similar bill in the Ohio House, he had called it "appropriate."
Abortion opponents cheered the move and said they expected the governor to sign the law.
“Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.
Abortion-rights supporters wore “STOP THE BANS” T-shirts in the Senate chamber on Wednesday as the vote went forward.
The law "will create a chilling effect on the medical profession in our state and could result in a shortage of gynecologists willing to practice in Ohio,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Ohio, an abortion-rights advocacy group, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
The ACLU of Ohio said it was still evaluating the final bill before deciding whether to pursue legal action.
Kasich has 10 days to sign the bill into law after it is delivered to his office. If he does so, it will mark the 20th piece of Ohio legislation restricting abortion rights and funding for reproductive health passed in the six years he has been governor.
Unlike many other anti-abortion laws in the state, the Down syndrome bill did not pass strictly along party lines, with some Republicans joining the entire Democratic caucus in voting against the measure.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Patrick Enright and Matthew Lewis)