By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
Children with Down syndrome would experience new protection, under bills being introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania state Senate.
The measures would ban the abortion of babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb. Currently, babies in the Keystone State can be aborted up to 24 weeks gestation, except in cases of sex selection abortion, which are banned. (Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of protecting baby girls from abortion solely on the basis of their sex.)
The Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Representative Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) and Representative Judy Ward, a nurse, (R-Blair County) are the prime sponsors of the House bill.
“We’re raising the concern in Pennsylvania because of some tragic trends in European countries,” Speaker Turzai said. “In Iceland, they’ve become notorious for the claim that Down syndrome has been nearly eliminated. What they fail to mention is that Iceland has a 100 percent abortion of pre-born children with this diagnosis. I believe in the dignity of every human being. 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.”
Parents report often being pressured by doctors and others to abort babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. This is often based on the misconception that the children will suffer and will be a burden to their parents.
But in point of fact, those born with Down syndrome now experience a much greater life expectancy and a myriad of opportunities.
“The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome,” Rep. Ward said. “Medical and social advances have changed what it means to live with this condition. Down syndrome means that opportunities exist in every area of school, community and even professional life. We’ve learned too much to accept that Down syndrome citizens should be considered anything less than full members of the community. They deserve respect and the protection of our laws.”
Pennsylvania is already home to Chloe’s Law—a measure named after high school student Chloe Kondrich, who has Down syndrome. The law provides resources and support to parents who learn that their unborn children may have Down syndrome.
Chloe has accomplished a great deal in her young life, including writing a book and meeting with nationally-known public officials, sports stars, and entertainment figures. She recently attended the White House Rose Garden ceremony commemorating the tragic anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.
“Although Chloe’s Law (Act 130 of 2014) 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 Speaker Turzai. “It’s time to protect children with Down syndrome at every stage of life—especially at their most vulnerable.”