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Pennsylvania House tries anew to ban Down syndrome abortions

Published May 16. 2019 08:52AM

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is launching another effort to outlaw abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, passing legislation Tuesday that faces a veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, if it even reaches his desk.

The vote comes amid a wave of abortion restrictions advancing in more conservative states, setting them on a course to virtually eliminate abortion access in parts of the Midwest and Deep South, in hopes that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will approve.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill, 117-76, after two hours of sometimes emotional debate about pregnancies, children and relatives living with disabilities. The vote was well short of a veto-proof margin.

It goes to the GOP-controlled Senate. However, similar legislation died last year in the Senate, and its support remains uncertain there, particularly after Democrats who support abortion rights picked up seats.

The bill hews closely to legislation advanced by abortion-rights opponents in other states, and House debate broke down along the lines of those who support and oppose abortion rights.

Wolf’s office said he would veto the bill, calling it a “Trojan horse” and “another attempt to ban abortions and put politicians between a woman and her doctor.”

Wolf’s office went on to say that there is no evidence that the law is needed in Pennsylvania and that Wolf is eager to discuss how the state can better support individuals with disabilities and women facing complex pregnancies.

Senate Republican leadership offered only a brief, neutral statement, saying the bill will be referred to the appropriate committee and that the caucus has not discussed it.

Pennsylvania law allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy for any reason except to choose the gender. The bill would add to that prohibition a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The bill carries exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Backers said it would protect a vulnerable population whose lives are productive.

“People with Down syndrome have contributed so much, so much to our daily lives and our society as a whole and they will all continue to do so when we finally recognize that each of their precious lives is worth living,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, said during floor debate.

Opponents argued it violates the right of women to make their own decisions about abortion and cautioned against forcing parents to raise children with the genetic chromosomal disorder.

They called it ham-handed, unenforceable and an invasion of privacy that attempts to use children with disabilities to win a political battle over abortion rights. They pointed out that the chamber’s Republican leaders refused to allow votes on amendments seeking to boost help for children with disabilities.

“This bill is just another unconstitutional abortion ban from the same legislators who attempt to roll back the right to a safe, legal abortion every single legislative session,” Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware, said during floor debate.

A similar law is in effect in North Dakota, but laws in three other states have been blocked by federal courts. One of them, Indiana, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal. Meanwhile, a similar law in Arkansas will take effect in July and a Utah law is awaiting a positive court decision to take effect.

It’s not clear how many abortions in Pennsylvania are because of a Down syndrome diagnosis. The state Department of Health publishes an annual abortion statistics report, but does not collect such statistics about Down syndrome or genetic anomalies.

Wolf has previously rejected abortion legislation advanced by the Republican-controlled Legislature. He rejected a measure in 2017 that would have prohibited elective abortions after 20 weeks and, opponents say, banned the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Comments
More big government intrusion on our rights to make decisions with our Dr. This type of big brother social legislating is why I left the GOP
This is a very sensitive subject. Perhaps we need to change our mindset, to where we are more accepting of people with cognitive disabilities. Society seems to accept those who self inflict cognitive damage (pot, heroin, psilocybin, alcohol, etc.) We've collectively changed in our attitude toward these people's self imposed stupidity.
But before we collectively change in this matter, parents of these babies needs to change. Collective acceptance by the community is scarcely possible without personal acceptance first into our families. Make Sense? That shift in mindset is less apt to happen when we as a society continue to recommend a "better way" (kill them off).
It's sad to see a man say he's for liberty of this, that, and everything else, and then deny liberty of life to one because God added a Chromosome here or there. It's interesting how one who champions for the right to impose bodily harm on self, your own body, your own choice, would not give same toleration and sympathy to those born into cognitive disabilities. Doesn't add up.
This is a decision based on a number of factors that cannot be covered in the context of a blanket law. I doubt any parent makes the decision to terminate without a great deal of sadness and emotion. It is also made with a tremendous amount of respect for life, and what is best for the fetus and family. Trying to suggest that a parent who terminates a fetus with chromosomal defects is doing so due to a lack of acceptance of cognitive disability is ignorant. Have you spoken to a family that made the decision to terminate? I have, more than once. It was not easy and in each case they chose to name their child and have a service. Unless you have lived it, keep you judgments to yourself.
I didn't expect you to slam me down like you just did Joe, but that's typical in this rags comment section. When your comment goes that direction, you come off more like a reprobate than who you are. I've been with families who've made the other choice Joe. I've been with people who are here because of the other option Joe. I'll just leave saying what I did coming in, it's a sensitive subject. And I'll admit, I am ignorant of much Joe. Good day.
What I said was mild compared to accusing bereaved parents of disregard for people with cognitive limitations. Every situation is different and the unfortunate thing about this abortion debate is there are those, like yourself, comfortable with painting all situations as the same, and then unleashing judgment on them.
No judgement here Joe, stop it. No accusations here Joe, stop it. Read my post carefully. I've spent time with those who would otherwise have been terminated, and many lead a productive life. Stop it Joe.
Oh please, you just judged in this post. Big government “social conservatives” want to believe that every downs syndrome child is like corky in life goes on but the reality is far more grim. And not every parent is equipped. How many Down syndrome kids have you adopted? How about every big government tea party member that supports this bill pledges to adopt at least 2 kids with Down syndrome? If you are not willing to adopt special needs kids than STFU.
Joe, you argue against what... you do not know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You don't know me, though you could, because I actually exist by the name I use here. I've got nothing to hide. I admit ignorance to much. I am far from perfect, but I strive to please God. My point is pretty easy to see, and the goal isn't to judge, or to chastise anyone. I think we pushed God to the side, and want to replace Him with self (We/me). I and many fellow Christians do much good for the local community. My church is growing Joe. Why don't you come join us for a men's breakfast, I'll pay. Let me know if you're interested. We'll put our differences to the side for that time.
Again Joe... You have no clue what I do or those around me do. You appear to have been jilted by a church or something connected to religion. I'm not in to religion Joe, I'm in to relationship. I'm not telling anyone they should do this or that as much as that I speak for those who don't have a voice. So I'll take that as a no to breakfast? Maybe another time Joe.
I'm not jilted by faith, I'm disappointed by folks like yourself that have convenient lapses in your moral compass for the purpose of supporting a president that is the antithesis of christian values.

I'll be glad to attend,when and where?
No Politics at breakfast Joe.
Bowmanstown Diner First Saturday of the month.
Saturday June 1st at 7:00 AM
We'll break bread together. Politics to side.
Ask for me, we'll be in the event room to the back.
Wow... I hope between now and then I don't post anything to grind your gears...
oops, I may have already done that. No Politics, and it's on me.
You are right Meyers. Stick to your guns. Joe has rose colored glasses. Joe willfully ignores sources that are positive at the same time he digs around for any thing to ridicule President Trump. He is a hateful liberal that wasted time trying to dig up information on me. Luckily Liberals are easy to outsmart. The Great Rush Limbaugh- I can defeat a Liberal with half my brain tied behind my back. I led Joe on a wild goose chase. The “level of education” insult didn’t work. Isn’t that right Joe? You tried “a little opposition research.” How much time did you waste? I don’t even live in the area. You, Joe, show tremendous gaps in knowledge and understanding. Maybe, you waste time that would be better put to use developing your intellect.

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