Pennsylvania Committee Votes to Ban Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   Micaiah Bilger   Nov 18, 2019   |   5:24PM    Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania legislature moved a step closer Monday to passing a bill that would protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discriminatory abortions.

The state Senate Health Committee approved the bill Monday, moving it forward to the full Senate for a vote.

The Down Syndrome Protection Act (House Bill 321) would prohibit an abortion solely based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. It would add to a state law that also prohibits discriminatory sex-selection abortions.

“We have a responsibility to protect those who don’t have a voice,” said state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York County, a sponsor of the bill, in a statement earlier this year. “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.”

Other sponsors include Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster and House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County. A number of disability rights advocates also support the bill, including Karen Gaffney, a long-distance swimmer with Down syndrome and disability rights advocate, Kurt and Chloe Kondrich, and Sara Hart Weir, the former president of the National Down Syndrome Society.

Pennsylvania pro-life and disability rights advocates celebrated the progress of the bill Monday.

“Today’s vote, along with the passage by the PA House, sends a compassionate message to Pennsylvania communities that no human being should be targeted for death by abortion because of a disability,” said Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

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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. The legislation would protect families from this discrimination.

“This is a victory for Pennsylvania women, their families, and people with disabilities,” said Maria V. Gallagher, legislative director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an affiliate of National Right to Life. “People with Down syndrome contribute greatly to our families, schools, workplaces, and communities, and their lives should be protected.”

The bill passed the state House during the last session by a strong majority, but it stalled in the state Senate.

Currently in Pennsylvania, a woman can have abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, except for the purpose of sex-selection. The Down Syndrome Protection Act would expand that exception to include unborn babies with Down syndrome.

“Countries like Iceland and Denmark are aborting nearly every child diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb,” said Dan Bartkowiak, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “Here in America, we’re trending towards Iceland with the majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome being aborted. Pennsylvania is better than this. Let’s stop medical professionals from coercing women to abort their child solely because of Down syndrome, and let’s truly celebrate people with Down syndrome for the wonderful contributions they make to our state.”

In 2017, 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.

ACTION: Contact Pennsylvania state Senators.