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

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 13, 2020   |   5:58PM   |   Jackson, MS

Mississippi House lawmakers approved a bill Friday to protect unborn babies from discrimination based on a disability like Down syndrome, their sex or race.

Approved in a 79-33 vote, Mississippi House Bill 1295, the Human Life Equality Act, now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

The legislation would protect unborn babies from discriminatory abortions by banning abortions carried out because of a baby’s sex, race, disability or genetic makeup. Abortionists who knowingly abort a baby for any of these reasons could be punished with up to 10 years in prison. State Rep. Carolyn Crawford is the lead sponsor.

Susan B. Anthony List State Policy Director Sue Liebel celebrated the victory, saying abortions have become a modern means of eugenics.

“Mississippi is a strongly pro-life state, and we are encouraged to see pro-life lawmakers put forth compassionate legislation to protect children from lethal discrimination abortion,” she said.

Sometimes, unborn babies are aborted simply because they are a girl instead of a boy or because they have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, but few states protect them from this deadly discrimination.

Mika Hartman and her son Hudson, who has Down syndrome, recently urged Mississippi lawmakers to pass the legislation. Hartman said she was advised to abort her son because of his disability, but she refused. She said Hudson is a happy, healthy toddler.

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Liebel said she is hopeful the bill will pass.

“Mississippians believe these babies deserve protection,” she said. “We are thankful to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bain and Representative Crawford for their pro-life leadership in the house, as well as Senator Jenifer Branning, and Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann for their support of this legislation. SBA List is confident these staunch pro-life advocates will continue to champion this bill until it reaches Governor Tate Reeves’ desk – a strongly pro-life governor who will not fail to sign it into law.”

Earlier this month, some Democrat lawmakers balked at the legislation. State Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, said women should be able to choose abortion for any reason.

“Women should have a right to make a choice for themselves whether they want to have a child or not,” she told the AP.

But most Mississippi lawmakers and voters support basic rights for unborn babies. A Marist poll conducted this year found that 65% of Americans, including 50% of those who identify as “pro-choice,” oppose discrimination-based abortions because a baby has Down syndrome.

State lawmakers have been trying to protect unborn babies in many different ways. In 2019, Mississippi passed a law to prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. However, the law never went into effect due to a legal challenge. In February, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that the heartbeat law is unconstitutional and upheld a lower court decision blocking the law.

Several states do ban sex-selection abortions, but an Indiana law similar to the new bill in Mississippi recently also was blocked in court. Roe v. Wade severely limits states from protecting unborn babies from abortion. The infamous U.S. Supreme Court case made America one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Polls show that most Americans support greater protections for unborn babies, including a ban on discriminatory sex-selection abortions.

A June Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans want all (21%) or almost all (39%) abortions made illegal. In contrast, 38 percent said they want all (25%) or almost all (13%) abortions legal. Similarly, a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll found that just 6% of Americans said abortions should be allowed “up until the birth of the child.”