Pennsylvania Bill Would Make It Next State to Ban Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 13, 2018   |   10:10AM   |   Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill Monday to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discriminatory abortions.

During a large rally in the Capitol, pro-life lawmakers gathered with disability rights advocates, pro-lifers and people with Down syndrome to introduce the legislation.

“Every human life is worth living and has dignity. Every human life,” said state House Speaker Mike Turzai.

State House Bill 2050 would prohibit abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. Four states have similar laws: Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and North Dakota. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that also prohibits sex-selection abortions.

Some of the biggest supporters of the legislation are people with Down syndrome and their families. Karen Gaffney, a long-distance swimmer with Down syndrome and disability rights advocate, spoke at the rally about how her life and the lives of every child with Down syndrome are worth living, CNHI reports.

Lynne and Paul Conrad, of Pittsburgh, also want to see the legislation pass. One of their children, Chris, has Down syndrome.

“He’s a child. He’s one of my four children. Yes, he may have different abilities, but all my children have different abilities,” his mother told KDKA Pittsburgh.

Here’s more from the report:

The Conrads told KDKA it’s not always easy caring for a child with Down syndrome, but they wouldn’t trade it for the world. The Conrads hope state lawmakers will pass the proposed bills.

“It’s not always been easy, but we take each challenge, we look at other options, and we make the best decisions,” said Lynne Conrad.

To anyone considering abortion because of the potential for Down syndrome, the Conrads say kindly to consider this: “Giving that child a life.”

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“And if they don’t want that child, giving that child to someone who will love and nurture that child to give them what they need to be successful in life,” said Lynne Conrad.

At the rally Monday, pro-life advocates pointed to statistics that unborn babies with Down syndrome are targeted for abortions at astronomical rates.

A recent CBS News report shocked the nation with its exposure of the discriminatory abortion trend. According to the report, nearly 100 percent of unborn babies who test positive for Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland. The rate in France was 77 percent in 2015, 90 percent in the United Kingdom and 67 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2011, according to CBS.

Some put the rate as high as 90 percent in the United States, but it is difficult to determine the exact number because the U.S. government does not keep detailed statistics about abortion.

Pro-abortion Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesperson denied that the discriminatory targeting even exists.

“There is no evidence that this practice is even occurring, yet this is another example of Harrisburg Republicans exploiting vulnerable families and trying to undermine the doctor-patient relationship to score political points,” J.J. Abbott told CNHI.

Wolf, who once volunteered for the abortion chain Planned Parenthood, opposes the legislation.

But pro-life and disability rights advocates said it is very much needed.

“No child should be targeted for death because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome,” said Jeremy Samek of the Pennsylvania Family Council.

Samek, who recently adopted a baby with Down syndrome, said parents should be aware that support exists for families of children with disabilities. In 2014, Pennsylvania passed a law to help make sure parents receive that information when their child is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“Birth mothers who don’t think they could raise a special needs child have support and we need to ensure they are aware of it,” he said. “If they still think they can’t do it even with the support, there are people willing to adopt children with special needs, and birth moms who place their child in a loving home are heroes.”