Pennsylvania House Passes Bill to Ban Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   |   Steven Ertelt, Maria Gallagher   |   May 14, 2019   |   6:51PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill today that would ban abortions on babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome before birth. The Pennsylvania state House approved the bill on a 117 to 76 vote — with Republicans generally supporting the bill to protect babies with Down Syndrome from abortion and Democrats voting to allow them to be killed in abortions.

Even if the Pennsylvania legislature approves the measure, pro-abortion Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has already promised to veto it.

Wolf says the bill interferes with the ability of women to decide if they want to have abortions even just because their baby is born with a disability that millions of Americans have.

The Down Syndrome Protection Act is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R–Allegheny County) and state Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York County). The bill has also garnered dozens of co-sponsors from all across the political spectrum. The popular bill passed the House last session by an overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majority, but stalled in the state Senate.

Research shows that the vast majority of children who receive a Down syndrome diagnosis in the womb lose their lives to abortion. Many parents report being pressured by doctors to turn to abortion after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

This comes at a time when people with Down syndrome are making tremendous strides in our communities and in the nation as a whole. They contribute greatly to our families, schools, and workplaces, and their lives should be protected.

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As Rep. Klunk stated in a news release announcing the bill,

“We have a responsibility to protect those who don’t have a voice. We have a responsibility to stand up against eugenics. And, we have a responsibility to stand up to say that a baby with Down syndrome has a right to life and should not be discriminated against in the womb. Individuals with Down syndrome live lives full of dignity, value and love. We must embrace these lovable human beings for the amazing individuals they are and not allow policies that erase them from existence. They are truly lives worth living.”

Under current Pennsylvania law, a woman can have an abortion prior to 24 weeks for any reason except sex selection.

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 a rally in the state Capitol about how every child with Down syndrome has a life 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.

Last year, a 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.

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.”

Action Item: If you live in Pennsylvania, please call your state Senator and urge him or her to support the Down Syndrome Protection Act. Click here for contact information.