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    Lawsuit challenges ban on abortions due to Down syndrome

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging an Ohio law prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome, saying claims it is an antidiscrimination effort are a masquerade.

    The suit against the state Health Department, state medical board, and county prosecutors charged with carrying out the 2017 law was filed in federal court in Cincinnati on behalf of Preterm in Cleveland, Planned Parenthood, and other Ohio abortion providers.

    The filing calls the measure ‘‘Ohio’s latest attempt to prevent women from exercising their constitutionally protected right to an abortion’’ and argues it prevents abortion providers ‘‘from providing nonjudgmental, medically appropriate care.’’

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    ‘‘The government cannot deny a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy pre-viability,’’ ACLU legal director Freda Levenson said at a news conference in Columbus announcing the suit. ‘‘It is a woman’s protected, intimate, personal choice and it’s her protected liberty. The Supreme Court has said that the state cannot enter this private realm of family life or infringe on this liberty.’’

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    Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the law in December. It’s scheduled to take effect March 23. The ACLU has requested both a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against the law to keep it from taking effect.

    The prohibition makes it a crime for a doctor to terminate a pregnancy based on knowledge of Down syndrome, a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

    Specifically, the law makes performing an abortion in such cases a fourth-degree felony and requires the state medical board to revoke the physician’s license if convicted. It imposes no punishment on women seeking the procedure in such cases.