Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a bill Monday to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discriminatory abortions.
Preborn babies with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome will be protected under a bill passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Health Committee. The measure passed by a 17 – 9 vote Monday.
“The Down Syndrome Protection Act would prohibit an abortion of any child solely due to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome.” said Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. “Innocent children would not be discriminated against just because they have an extra chromosome.”
Under current PA law, a woman can have an abortion prior to 24 weeks for any reason except if the women’s sole reason is sex selection. This legislation would simply expand that exception to include a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
“People with Down syndrome contribute greatly to our families, communities, and workplaces,” Gallagher added. “We urge swift passage of this important piece of disability rights legislation by the full House and Senate.”
Last month, 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.
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.
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.”