Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of attorneys general in opposing an Ohio law that bans abortions from being performed on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
The bill was passed in December 2017 by the Ohio General Assembly and signed into law by former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but has faced a series of legal obstacles since its passage. Under the bill, doctors could face fourth-degree felony charges and lose their medical licenses if they know that a woman is seeking an abortion based on a Down syndrome diagnosis but proceed with the operation anyway.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio filed a lawsuit on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland and Planned Parenthood in February 2018 in an effort to overturn the law. The law was set to take effect in March 2018, but its enforcement has been blocked while it makes its way through the courts.
A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in October that the law is likely unconstitutional, but the state responded by seeking a reconsideration from the full Sixth Circuit.
The full Sixth Circuit agreed to rehear the appeal and those proceedings began Wednesday.
“This law is part of a concerted effort to overturn Roe v. Wade and to take states – including Michigan – back to the dark ages where women were forced to resort to back-alley abortions for fear of criminal prosecution,” Attorney General Nessel said in a press release after filing a brief Monday in support of the plaintiffs.
“Women should have access to abortion services, no matter what state they live in. I will always fight for women’s reproductive rights,” she added.
The brief, filed by the attorneys general of 20 states and the District of Columbia, argues that the Ohio law “directly conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Roe v. Wade.”
Nessel touted the fact that she withdrew Michigan from four federal cases that would “limit women’s reproductive rights” after she took office.
The U.S. Justice Department has sided with Ohio in the case, arguing that nothing in the law “creates a substantial obstacle to women obtaining an abortion.”
“Nothing in the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent requires states to authorize medical providers to participate in abortions the providers know are based on Down syndrome,” the Justice Department said in its filing.
According to the Associated Press, the Sixth Circuit has moved to the right over the last few years because of new appointments by President Trump.
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