Pennsylvania House Passes Bill Banning Selective Abortions of Down Syndrome Babies

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would outlaw abortions targeting babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in an effort to prevent “eugenics.”
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would outlaw abortions targeting babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in an effort to prevent “eugenics.”

The legislation bans abortions sought exclusively because of “a prenatal diagnosis of, or belief that the unborn child has, Down Syndrome.” Passed with bipartisan support, 139-56, the bill would complement current state law banning sex-selective abortions.

House Speaker Mike Turzai said he introduced the bill after reading reports about the high rate of abortion of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland.

Last August, CBS News aired a report revealing that nearly 100 percent of pregnant women in Iceland whose babies test positive for Down syndrome end up aborting their children, a statistic that was lauded as a sign of “progress.”

“My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society—that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” said Kari Stefansson, a geneticist and the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes.

“I believe in the dignity of every human being,” Turzai said on introducing the bill. “None of us are born perfect, and we all have something beautiful to contribute. Pennsylvania is a loving, compassionate community, and we want to extend welcome and support to Down syndrome families. They need to know they’re not alone.”

Speaking on the House floor Monday, Rep. Kate Klunk described the bill as an effort to prevent “eugenics,” or the attempt to improve a population by reducing or eliminating the occurrence of undesirable traits.

Pennsylvania has a history of support for people with Down syndrome and in 2014 passed “Chloe’s Law,” named after high school student Chloe Kondrich, who has Down syndrome. Intended to combat unfounded bias against Down syndrome, the law offers education to parents whose unborn children may have the condition.

“Although Chloe’s Law has been a valuable tool in educating parents about the quality of life of a person with Down syndrome, the abortion rate for children is still too high,” said Turzai has said. “It’s time to protect children with Down syndrome at every stage of life—especially at their most vulnerable.”

The bill will now go to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf opposes the bill and has said he would veto it. Wolf is up for re-election this year, however, and all three of his GOP challengers support the bill.

Recently, similar bills have been struck down in other states by Obama-appointed judges.

Last month, a federal judge blocked an Ohio law banning selective abortions targeting babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, saying that the law “is unconstitutional on its face.”

In 2016, Indiana passed a law banning gender-selective abortions and those based on a prenatal diagnosis of disabilities such as Down syndrome, but the law was blocked by another Obama-appointed federal judge following a lawsuit brought by abortion giant Planned Parenthood.

During his tenure as president, Barack Obama made a point of only naming pro-abortion judges, and he never received less than a 100 percent approval rating from either NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood.

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