Pennsylvania Gov Tom Wolf Vetoes Bill Banning Abortions on Babies With Down Syndrome

State   Steven Ertelt, Micaiah Bilger   Nov 21, 2019   |   6:34PM    Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday vetoed a bill to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome from discrimination.

The Down Syndrome Protection Act (House Bill 321) passed the state Senate on Wednesday in a 27-22 vote. The bill 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. The Pennsylvania House previously passed the measure by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin.

But Wolf today vetoed the legislation to protect babies with Down syndrome.

In a statement, the governor called the legislation a “restriction on women and medical professionals and interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians.” He said enforcement of the bill would “upend the doctor-patient relationship and impede on patient confidentiality.”

“Gov. Wolf’s veto will prevent all children with Down’s Syndrome from going on to live happy and fulfilled lives,” said Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. “Had Gov. Wolf signed this legislation, he would’ve ensured the protection of humanity’s most vulnerable lives. We thank all legislators who came together in a bi-partisan fashion to support this common-sense legislation, and PCC looks forward to working with them again to protect the sanctity of life.”

Ahead of his veto, Wolf slammed the bill in a statement to the AP, claiming it “seeks to limit health care choices for women and politicize difficult moments for vulnerable families.”

“This bill masks yet another attempt to ban abortions and put politicians between a woman and her doctor,” Wolf’s office said.

Wolf has close ties to the abortion industry. He once volunteered as an escort at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. In 2018, his re-election campaign received a record $1.5 million in support from Planned Parenthood. He also appointed several people from the abortion chain to his administration, including his chief of staff.

It is not clear if there are enough votes in the state legislature to override Wolf’s veto.

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“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.

Supporters urged lawmakers to protect unborn babies from discrimination, noting how abortion has become a modern means of eugenics.

“This is eugenics, this is not health care,” Martin said during the Senate debate. “These are parents who actually want to have children, who are presented as if this child will actually be a burden, who cannot live a productive life. … These children have the ability to live long, productive lives, even past the age of 60.”

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 have an 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.”

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 Gov. Tom Wolf here to complain about him vetoing bill.