A Sixth Sense on Abortion

March 12, 2020

After three miscarriages, the news hit Kelly hard. She and her husband had tried for years to have a baby -- so when her fourth pregnancy tested positive for Down syndrome, they were shattered. Since Kelly was adamant about having their son, she hoped the doctors would give them some helpful advice. Instead, she says, they horrified her with worst-case scenarios. It's almost "like you're given a death sentence." When they got home later that day, she cried for hours.

Kelly looks back on those hard months and wishes every parent who got the same diagnosis knew what she does now: it's worth it. Today, Oliver is a happy five-year-old, living "a pretty normal life." "You plan for the worst," she says, but it's nothing compared to the joy they've experienced. "We were told of all the different therapies he would need and all the additional work that would be involved," she told the Ohio legislature. "But we were never told how amazing our lives would be with Oliver in it. Nobody told me my face would hurt from smiling at him." Thanks to testimonies like Kelly's, the state moved forward, banning Down syndrome abortions.

Now, three years later, abortion activists are desperately trying to tear down the law. As far as they're concerned, targeting a baby because of its race, gender, or even disability is just another "personal decision." The Trump administration disagrees -- so strongly that it sent a team of lawyers to defend Ohio's ban in court. It was an unusual step for the Justice Department, but an important one, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband told me on "Washington Watch."

Calling in from Cincinnati, where the oral arguments had just wrapped up, Eric explained that this wasn't just about protecting Down syndrome babies, but the worth of every person. Ohio, he said, is promoting "the equal dignity of [every] individual who lives with disabilities." At the end of the day, it's about ending discrimination -- and allowing abortions, based on this single diagnosis, is exactly that. "It also protects against a slippery slope to race- and sex-based abortions," Dreiband points out. Because, as FRC has argued before, once you start adopting this more utilitarian view of life, where does it stop? Today, it's children with Down syndrome -- tomorrow it's seniors with dementia.

Another important feature of the Ohio laws is protecting moms like Kelly from doctors who try to coerce them into aborting. Most people don't realize the pressure moms and dads are under after a diagnosis like this. And very often, Eric said, all women hear is "a one-sided presentation of the facts." So it's significant that the administration would step in and stand -- not just with the state, but with parents. "We felt it was important for us to weigh and to make the point [that so many doctors aren't, which is that]... people who have Down syndrome have lives that are worth living. They are of equal worth to everyone and that human life is sacred."

That logic ought to be well received in a court so dramatically impacted by the president's judicial nominees. In the Sixth Circuit, where the case was heard, six of the 15 judges sitting in on Wednesday's arguments were Trump appointees. No wonder Eric was optimistic. They'll need a majority vote, of course -- but thanks to the White House's promise-keeping on the courts, Ohio stands a very good chance of winning. It's just another example of how the president's commitment to judges is literally making a life-or-death difference for kids like Oliver and moms like Kelly.