Press Release from the Office of the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Turzai
Representative Kate Klunk and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai in April 2019 introduced the Down Syndrome Protection Act in Pennsylvania as House Bill 321. This bill prohibited the abortion of any child on the sole basis of a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome. Representative Klunk and Speaker Turzai held a press conference in support of their bill on March 20, 2019.
During the 2017-18 Session, Speaker Turzai previously prime-sponsored the same legislation alongside then-Representative Judy Ward as House Bill 2050. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB2050 on April 16, 2018 with a bipartisan, veto-proof vote of 139-56. 115 Republicans and 24 Democrats voted to protect those unborn children with Down syndrome. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to bring the bill forward for a vote in the prior session.
Representative Klunk and Speaker Turzai were determined to get the Down Syndrome Protection Act to the Governor’s desk this 2019-20 session. The state House of Representatives passed House Bill 321 on May 14, 2019 with a bipartisan vote of 117-76. 102 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted to protect these vulnerable unborn children. On November 20, 2019, the state Senate passed HB 321 by a vote of 27-22, with 25 Republicans in support, as well as one Democrat and one Independent.
Governor Wolf, however, issued a veto on November 21, 2019, depriving these unborn children in Pennsylvania of protection against abortion. The Governor’s veto underscores the importance of electing pro-life candidates at every level of government.
Currently, five states have enacted legislation prohibiting abortion based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome, including Indiana and Louisiana in 2016, Ohio and North Dakota in 2017, and Kentucky in 2019. Statues like the Down Syndrome Protection Act allow state legislators across the country to challenge Roe v. Wade’s U.S. Supreme Court Ruling.
Dr. Karen Gaffney, an advocate in support of the bill last session and public speaker with Down syndrome, visited our Capitol to emphasize the urgent need to ban the eugenic practice of eradicating Down syndrome through abortion, as Iceland has been promoting:
“Those of us with Down syndrome and our families face a very difficult future,” Dr. Gaffney said, “We face the 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 fist 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.”
Dr. Gaffney and many other individuals with Down syndrome are thriving. We must work to change hearts and minds so that someday soon Pennsylvania can protect all the unborn.