By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director
The popular Down Syndrome Protection Act is being reintroduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The bill bans abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. The legislation is a response to the high abortion rate among women whose unborn babies have been diagnosed with an extra chromosome.
During the last session, the House passed the legislation by an overwhelming, veto-proof, bipartisan majority of 139-56. However, the Down Syndrome Protection Act stalled in the PA Senate last year.
As the co-sponsorship memo states, “Most of us know of a family touched by a Down syndrome child, and know these children grow to lead joyful and fulfilling lives.”
The lead sponsors on the bill are House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) and state Representative Kate Klunk (R-York County).
Karen Gaffney is the first living person with Down syndrome to receive an honorary doctorate from a college or university. At a rally at the state Capitol last year, Gaffney eloquently stated, “Those of us with Down Syndrome and our families face a very difficult future. We face a possibility of wiping out all of the tremendous progress we have made. Just as we are making so much progress, a whole industry has grown up focused on prenatal screening – screening that would end our lives before we take our first breath.
“Now that you can test for Down Syndrome before birth, there are many experts in the medical community that say this extra chromosome we carry around is not compatible with life. Not compatible with life? After everything we have done, I would say we are more than compatible. We are what life is all about. Our lives are worth living and our lives are worth learning about.”
Pennsylvania currently bans abortion after 24 weeks except to save the life of the mother, and at any time during the pregnancy if the woman’s only reason for abortion is to select the sex of the baby.
The Keystone State is already home to Chloe’s Law, which provides information and resources for parents who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. The law is named for Chloe Kondrich, a teenager who has become something of an international ambassador for children with Down syndrome.
Chloe’s Law “made progress educating parents regarding the quality of life that a person with Down syndrome can enjoy,” the co-sponsorship memo states. It goes on to say, “…the abortion rate for children with Down syndrome is still too high. It is time to protect Down syndrome children in the womb.”
Action Item: Pennsylvanians are urged to call their state representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor the Down Syndrome Protection Act.