It’s Time to EMBRACE – not erase – Down Syndrome in the United States

The PA Pro-life Federation welcomes                                                                                guest bloggers Chloe Kondrich and Sara Hart Weir

chloe and best friendSara Hart Weir and Kasey

While countries like Iceland have grossly celebrated the eradication of individuals with Down syndrome from their society (eugenics as its worst) – we are teaming up to send a new message to our country’s leaders, employers, educators, healthcare providers, future parents and most importantly, individuals with Down syndrome – life for people with Down syndrome matters.

Our life’s passion and work, in different corners of our great country, brought us together with this common moral – “pro-life for all of life.” For the two of us, a future that doesn’t include people with Down syndrome is very personal (Chloe is a self-advocate from Pennsylvania who is one of the fiercest advocates on the planet and Weir is the former President & C.E.O. of the National Down Syndrome Society and a candidate for U.S. Congress).

Today, we are calling on all Members of Congress, regardless of party, to put your differences aside and help us ensure that our society embraces diversity, embraces differing abilities and, most importantly, stands for life, from the very beginning to natural death, by supporting a new bill, the Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act, which places a federal ban on the performance of an abortion because an unborn child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.

There continues to be a widespread increase in the Down syndrome prenatal screening tests in the United States (and across the world) which is leading to a decrease in the number of babies with Down syndrome. And while these screening tests (called noninvasive prenatal screening tests (NIPT)) are intended to only screen for Down syndrome (not diagnose), the pressure to not seek further testing, and terminate a pregnancy is real. For instance, the most recent stats available to the public estimate that 67% of babies with Down syndrome are terminated in the Unites States, 77% in France, 98% in Denmark and 100% in Iceland.

Chloe and her father Kurt speak at events and venues across the country to end this prenatal eugenic movement against Down syndrome, and Weir is setting her sights, with Chloe’s support, on taking their collective message to the United States Congress by representing her home district in Kansas to continue to give a voice to the voiceless. Kansas also happens to be a battle ground state for the pro-life movement, as we seek to advance an amendment next year to reverse the State of Kansas’ recent court decision that found the right to an abortion in the Kansas Constitution. Weir and the Constitutional amendment will find themselves on the same ballot in 2020.

For the two of us, as women, this possibility that our society won’t include people with Down syndrome is unacceptable. We are speaking up and speaking out to help influence generations of women and families that people with Down syndrome matter – and will continue to advocate at the federal and state levels to “Embrace, and not erase” our community. We hope you join us! 

Chloe Kondrich, Down syndrome Advocate

Chloe Kondrich, who happens to have Down syndrome, is from Pennsylvania and has fought to pass her own bill “Chloe’s Law” which requires support and educational materials to be provided for families after a diagnosis of Down syndrome – a model law that is working itself through state legislatures around the country. Chloe has met the President and Vice President and appeared twice at the United Nations in NYC.


Sara Hart Weir, Republican US Congressional Candidate, KS-3

 Sara Hart Weir, (38) a pro-life Republican US Congressional Candidate in Kansas’ Third District, most recently served as the President & C.E.O. of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome, inspired by her best friend, Kasey, of over 20 years who happens to have Down syndrome, is hoping to continue her life’s work by giving a voice to the voiceless in Congress.

PA Girl with Down Syndrome to be Featured in Times Square

ChloeKondrich By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

One of Pennsylvania’s own will soon be gracing the big screen at Times Square in New York.

Sixteen-year-old Chloe Kondrich, a vivacious student who happens to have Down syndrome, will be featured on the big double screen September 14th. Her captivating photo will be part of a presentation by the National Down Syndrome Society.

Chloe’s photo has been displayed in Times Square before–but each time is a thrill for her and her family. In her young life, Chloe has already accomplished a great deal–from meeting the President and Vice-President to hobnobbing with sports figures and musical stars.

Chloe demonstrates quite clearly the amazing capabilities of children with Down syndrome. She is also the face behind Chloe’s Law–a Pennsylvania measure which ensures that parents whose babies have received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome receive access to educational resources and support for the journey ahead.

Chloe has been lobbying for a new bill–House Bill 321–which would ban abortion for the sole reason of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. The bill has passed the PA House of Representatives by a resounding margin and is now pending in the PA Senate.

If you live in Pennsylvania, please consider calling and emailing your state Senator and urging him or her to support HB 321. Let them know that children with Down syndrome deserve our protection, our respect, and equal rights under the law.

 

Disability Should Not be a Death Sentence

Zack Gottsagen By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

I was pleasantly surprised to open People magazine and find a feature devoted to an actor who may be on the cusp of stardom—and who also happens to have Down syndrome.

Performer Zack Gottsagen will be appearing in the August release of “The Peanut Butter Falcon.” A Florida newspaper also published a lengthy profile of this soon-to-be breakout star. According to writer Ben Crandell of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, doctors predicted that Zack would not be able to walk or talk—yet now, he is receiving standing ovations for his role in what Crandell describes as a “bittersweet buddy comedy.”

Zach’s ascendancy in Hollywood is truly inspirational—a testament to his talent and grit. It also shows just how far a person with Down syndrome can exceed societal expectations.

And yet, babies with Down syndrome are routinely targeted for extinction. Research shows the vast majority of preborn babies who receive a Down syndrome diagnosis are aborted. How poorer our society is when these bright lights of humanity are never able to see the light of day.

But whether a person with Down syndrome works in Hollywood, California or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he or she deserves the utmost in respect. Not every citizen with Down syndrome will appear on the big screen; nevertheless, he or she can make a big impact on our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our communities.

This is why the Pennsylvania House of Representatives soundly passed House Bill 321—a bill which would ban abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. It is the ultimate form of bigotry and discrimination to deny a person life based on disability. The bill is now pending in the PA Senate.

Every abortion is a tragedy, because it steals the life of a precious, unrepeatable human being. Until the tragic U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade falls and states can provide total protection to preborn babies, bills such as HB 321 represent a crucial first step.

We as a nation are suffering from a tremendous talent deficit because of legalized abortion. In a civilized society, people with disabilities should be honored, treasured, and empowered—as much as any star of the cinema.

 

 

 

Marking the Five-Year Anniversary of Chloe’s Law

Chloe Kondrich and Gov. Corbett By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

Pennsylvania celebrates an important milestone this week–the five-year anniversary of the signing of Chloe’s Law.

This landmark act, signed by pro-life Republican Governor Tom Corbett, ensures that the parents of preborn babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome receive information and supportive resources to help them on their journey.

The law is named for Chloe Kondrich, a vivacious girl with Down syndrome. Her accomplishments run the gamut…from joining with her father Kurt to give the keynote address at the recent National Right to Life Convention to speaking at the United Nations (twice). She has also met with celebrated musicians, athletes, and public officials. Among her many fans are the President and Vice-President of the United States.

Chloe’s Law is as simple as it is remarkable–provide parents with concrete support, and they are far less likely to choose abortion. It is important to note that the legislation received nearly unanimous, bipartisan support in the state legislature.

Let’s hope that more states enact laws similar to the one that bear’s Chloe’s name. The legislation represents a positive approach to an alarming problem–the high incidence of abortion for babies with a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Statistics show that the vast majority of children in the womb who receive such a diagnosis are aborted. Kurt Kondrich sees it as the ultimate form of discrimination against people with disabilities.

Through greater education, understanding, and love, we can reverse this disturbing trend–and make America safe for children with Down syndrome.

Down Syndrome Protection Act Re-Introduced

Chloe Kondrich 2019

 By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

The Down Syndrome Protection Act has been reintroduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and referred to the House Health Committee. 

The popular bill passed the House last session by an overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majority, but stalled in the state Senate.

The common sense legislation would ban abortions for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. 

Research shows that the vast majority of children who receive a Down syndrome diagnosis in the womb lose their lives to abortion.

Many parents report being pressured by doctors to turn to abortion after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

This comes at a time when people with Down syndrome are making tremendous strides in our communities and in the nation as a whole. They contribute greatly to our families, schools, and workplaces, and their lives should be protected.

The latest Down syndrome bill is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R–Allegheny County) and state Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York County). The bill has also garnered dozens of co-sponsors from all across the political spectrum.

As Rep. Klunk stated in a news release announcing the bill, “We have a responsibility to protect those who don’t have a voice. We have a responsibility to stand up against eugenics. And, we have a responsibility to stand up to say that a baby with Down syndrome has a right to life and should not be discriminated against in the womb. Individuals with Down syndrome live lives full of dignity, value and love. We must embrace these lovable human beings for the amazing individuals they are and not allow policies that erase them from existence. They are truly lives worth living.”

Action Item: If you live in Pennsylvania, please call your state Representative and urge him or her to support the Down Syndrome Protection Act. 

Pennsylvania Teen Shows the Tremendous Gift of Children with Down Syndrome

Chloe at police officer's grave

 

By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

This is an incredible story of life, death, disability, and the power of an innocent child to bring people unity, hope and peace.

Chloe Kondrich, a teenager with Down syndrome, has won worldwide acclaim for her advocacy efforts on behalf of children with disabilities. Chloe’s father, Kurt, left his job in law enforcement to join Chloe in her advocacy efforts.

A decade ago, Kurt lost a close friend when a fellow Pittsburgh police officer, Paul Sciullo, was among a trio of officers killed in an ambush. The loss was devastating to the community and to Kurt personally.

When he took Chloe to her appointments at Children’s Hospital, he would stop at a nearby cemetery where Officer Sciullo was buried. There, Chloe formed a bond with the fallen officer, whose photograph adorns his tombstone.

During a visit with Sciullo’s parents, Chloe said, “I see Paul up in heaven and he’s holding a baby. It’s a baby boy. It’s his brother. His name’s David and (Paul’s) holding him in heaven.”

The parents started to cry. Unbeknownst to the Kondrich family, 43 years earlier, the Sciullos had miscarried a baby. He was a boy, and the Sciullos had discussed naming him David.

As Kurt remarks, “I don’t know what I did right to be given a daughter as awesome as this.” Chloe shined a very bright light in the darkest valley for the Sciullo family, and her father believes she proved that unborn children who die in the womb are in Heaven.

Yet, Kurt lives with the daily reality that children such as Chloe are truly endangered. That is because of the high abortion rate for unborn babies who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome. It is estimated that the vast majority of parents who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose abortion.

Kurt believes many individuals simply do not know the abilities of children with Down syndrome. Nor do they realize the resources that are available to them. The absence of knowledge leads to unnecessary barriers to inclusion and causes discrimination against those with an extra chromosome.

To address this pressing issue, the Kondrich’s were instrumental in passing Chloe’s Law, a Pennsylvania statute which provides positive information and support to parents who have received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis.

The Kondrich family is now advocating for legislation that would protect children with Down syndrome from abortion in Pennsylvania. The bill passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by an overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majority last year, but stalled in the Senate.

House Speaker Mike Turzai (R—Allegheny County) and Rep. Kate Klunk (R—York County) have announced plans to introduce a similar bill this year.

At a news conference at the state Capitol, Rep. Klunk spoke eloquently of the profound gift represented by children with Down syndrome.

And in a news release announcing plans to introduce the bill, Rep. Klunk stated, “We have a responsibility to protect those who don’t have a voice. We have a responsibility to stand up against eugenics. And, we have a responsibility to stand up to say that a baby with Down syndrome has a right to life and should not be discriminated against in the womb.

“Individuals with Down syndrome live lives full of dignity, value and love. We must embrace these loveable human beings for the amazing individuals they are and not allow policies that erase them from existence. They are truly lives worth living,” Rep. Klunk said.

Meanwhile, at a media event last year, Speaker Turzai said, “We’re raising the concern in Pennsylvania because of some tragic trends in European countries. 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 rate 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,” Speaker Turzai added.

For the Kondrich family, the legislative effort is part of a personal crusade to show the world that every life matters—including the lives of the most vulnerable. The goal is to restore a culture of Life where people “Embrace don’t erase” Down syndrome and end this prenatal genocide which is the ultimate extreme form of prejudice, discrimination, profiling, bigotry, and hate on innocent human beings who commit no acts of evil or violence.

A short video of this amazing story was made in NYC when Chloe received a prestigious award from Good Counsel Homes for her advocacy efforts: https://youtu.be/dFGFvi7xLx0

Down Syndrome Bill Proves Every Life is Precious

Mikayla Holmgren

 

 

By Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

Pageant contestant Mikayla Holmgren is a true trailblazer. In 2017, the young woman became the first person with Down syndrome to ever compete in a Miss USA state competition.

Meanwhile, Chloe Kondrich is a teenager who has accomplished more in her young life than some people with 70 years on the planet. She has been an author and an outspoken advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Like Mikayla, Chloe has Down syndrome. But that has not stopped her from meeting with statesmen, sportsmen, and other celebrities.

Mikayla and Chloe are scheduled to be on hand for a news conference on Wednesday, March 20th announcing the reintroduction of the Down Syndrome Protection Act in Pennsylvania. The measure is designed to protect babies with Down syndrome from the wanton destruction of abortion.

The legislation is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R–Allegheny County) and state Representative Kate Klunk (R–York County). It is similar to a bill which passed the PA House of Representatives by an overwhelming, bipartisan, veto-proof majority last year. Sadly, the previous bill failed to achieve a Senate vote.

But hopes are high that this year’s version will be approved by both the House and the Senate. With advocates like Mikayla and Chloe, it is easy to see why the bill is considered a winner.

In a story for NBC’s “Today” show, Mikayla said of her pageant experience, “I was not nervous…I want others to believe in themselves.”

Although Mikayla did not become Miss Minnesota, she did garner two awards–the Spirit award and the Director’s award.

The fact is, people with Down syndrome are winners. Their example sparks joy in their schools, their workplaces, and their communities.

It is high time that children with Down syndrome are cherished for the magnificent human beings they are. The Down Syndrome Protection Act is an important legislative step in that direction.

Down Syndrome Protection Act Being Re-Introduced

ChloeKondrich

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.

 

Pro-Life Year in Review in PA

Baby girlBy Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director

2018 was a year of accomplishment for the pro-life movement in Pennsylvania–despite incredible odds.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Teens Reached–The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation achieved the magnificent milestone of reaching more than 600,000 teenagers through our innovative partnership with the website TeenBreaks.com. In a number of cases, TeenBreaks connected teens with local pregnancy resource centers which could meet their needs.
  • Media Presence Expanded–The Pennsylvania pro-life movement expanded its reach to Pennsylvania citizens through hundreds of online articles, radio commentaries, and podcasts.
  • Pennsylvania abortions dropped to their lowest level on record. While even one abortion is too many, we rejoice that abortions have reached a record low in the Keystone State.
  • Social Media Presence Blossomed–We now post regular daily updates not only on the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, but on Instagram and Pinterest as well. This has allowed us to reach a whole new audience with our life-affirming message.
  • Down Syndrome Protection Act passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The bill would have banned abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. Unfortunately, the PA Senate never voted on the bill, but there is always hope for next year.
  • Pro-life majorities maintained. Despite an especially challenging election year, Pennsylvania maintains pro-life majorities in the state House and state Senate.

With these achievements, there’s no telling what we can accomplish in 2019!

Reflecting on the Special Olympics and the Right to Life

 

Down syndrome picture

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director

I was watching television the other night when I happened to catch a portion of the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics in Seattle. It was the most inspiring program I had seen all week. There was palpable joy as the competitors danced and sang with abandon. The scene made me reflect once more on the fundamental right to life of all children–including those with special needs.

It is truly alarming that the vast majority of American children diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted. These children are precious and worthy of protection. The Special Olympics showcases their athletic abilities, their heart, and their hope.

When parents learn that their preborn children may be born with Down syndrome, they may be frightened, confused, and struggling for answers. Thanks to legislation such as Pennsylvania’s Chloe’s Law, parents are offered resources and assistance at the time of the diagnosis so they will not feel so alone.

But more needs to be done. That’s why we urge Pennsylvania residents to contact their state Senators and encourage them to pass House Bill 2050, the Down Syndrome Protection Act. This common sense bill would ban abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Discrimination against people with disabilities must end. That includes the ultimate form of discrimination–ending a life in the womb. With your help, we will save the next generation of Special Olympians, ensuring that they receive a place of honor on the athletic field, in our families, and in our communities.