By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation
The young woman sat in the front row of the hearing, her eyes transfixed on the state legislators who would determine the fate of people like her—children who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
In the end, the Pennsylvania House Health Committee delivered an early Mother’s Day gift to mothers like her own, by voting to advance House Bill 321, the Down Syndrome Protection Act, to the floor.
This sensible bill, sponsored by state Representative Kate Klunk (R—York County), would ban abortions for the reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
As Rep. Klunk stated in her opening remarks to the committee, “We truly have a responsibility to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.”
Rep. Klunk went on to say that a dear friend had contacted her about the bill, noting that his niece, who has Down syndrome, is attending college in the fall. The legislator said the man reflected “how sad if her life would have been ended before it began.”
Another state lawmaker, Rep. Dawn Keefer (R—Cumberland & York Counties), noted that there is a waiting list to adopt children with Down syndrome.
As for opposition claims that the legislation is unconstitutional, committee chair Kathy Rapp (R—Crawford, Forest, Warren Counties) said, “Our Abortion Control Act has withstood a Supreme Court challenge.” That law, passed in 1989, bans sex selection abortions. HB 321 simply adds a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis to the exceptions for abortion in the Keystone State.
A vote by the full House of Representatives could come later this week.
For women such as Mary Lapkowicz, who is thriving with her Down syndrome diagnosis, the legislation is long overdue. Lapkowicz held a yellow rose during the committee vote—a symbol of hope for all people with Down syndrome and their families.
Given the fact that the vast majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, legislation such as the Down Syndrome Protection Act is sorely needed—not just in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but throughout the U.S.