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.

 

Please Call Your State Senator Now and Urge Yes on Down Syndrome Protection Act

Down syndrome picture with our sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please call your state Senator now and urge him or her to vote Yes on House Bill 2050, the Down Syndrome Protection Act.  The bill would outlaw abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. If you don’t know who your state Senator is, or you need contact information, please visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/#address .

Thank you for making these critical calls!

Stories of #ALifeWorthLiving

down-syndrome-group-picture-baby-kids

     We recently asked for stories from people who have been blessed to have individuals with Down syndrome in their lives.  Here are just two of the responses we’ve received.

Linda:

“I have known and loved several people with Down syndrome. I am a retired job coach and now these people are my dear friends. They are fantastic, loving people who could teach us all about being good people. As a job coach, I learned that these people are diligent and conscientious about their work and always want to please; they are kind, caring, and very loving. I consider the earth a better place because of these people. People who do not understand the love that Down syndrome people share with us have really missed out on a wonderful experience and fabulous people who have very much to offer.  I have a Masters Degree in Biophysics and I have always loved doing research. However, God led me to working with disabled people. I thank God for this opportunity and I feel blessed having known and loved these wonderful people.”

Suzanne:

“When my brother Paul was born in 1969, someone looking at all the babies in the nursery noticed the sign on his bassinette: Golden Boy. Golden was his last name. The onlooker, noticing his blond hair, said, ‘What a perfect name!’ And it was a perfect name. As he grew from infancy into childhood he was a sunny child, happy to be with his parents and his brothers and sisters, full of life and fun.

Paul is a special human being. He has Down syndrome.

Soon after Paul was born my father said he loved all his children but Paul needed extra love. We all loved Paul in a special way but Dad loved him in a way that was unique and very meaningful to Paul. Dad died when Paul was 31, creating a void in Paul’s life that no one could fill. He mourned for years reminding his brothers and sisters, ‘My Dad died.’ As if we didn’t know Dad. And, in a way, none of us knew Dad the way he did. For Paul Dad was always present, encouraging and fun…

All his life Paul has loved attention from young ladies. He will greet strangers on the street saying, ‘Hi, girls!’ Often these strangers are kind enough to say hello to him but others just ignore him, not knowing how to react to this unexpected greeting.

Life is full of unexpected greetings, sometimes from people with Down syndrome. We just have to open our hearts and our minds to the simplicity, kindness and love our brothers and sisters with Down syndrome offer us. Paul is a special person in our lives. Every person with Down syndrome is special.”

These stories are a great reminder of how a life with Down syndrome is #alifeworthliving.  If you have a similar story of living with someone with Down syndrome, please consider sharing it by contacting us at lifelines@paprolife.org.

When an Invitation to the Prom Becomes So Much More

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director
gallagher@paprolife.org

Ann Marie Lapkowicz is a friend of mine. Her daughter is now an international celebrity.

Mary and Ben

Mary and Ben

The story begins when Ann Marie’s daughter Mary was in 4th grade. As PennLive.com reports, her friend Ben Moser worked hard to make sure that Mary was included in the games the other fourth graders would play. His act of kindness was significant because Mary has Down syndrome. But to Ben, Mary was not a statistic—she was a friend.
Ben informed his mother that, when he was old enough, he would invite Mary to the high school prom.

But Ben and Mary ended up attending different high schools. As fate would have it, their paths crossed one day, and Ben decided to make good on his long-ago promise. As he told PennLive.com, “We got balloons and I wrote ‘prom’ on it. I presented her with the balloons and asked her to go to prom with me.”

But the fairy tale did not end there. News of the quarterback who asked his Down syndrome friend to the prom has gone viral. The pair even appeared on the cable program “Fox & Friends.” Ben told the Fox News anchor, “Mary’s the coolest person ever!” He also said his mother has never been prouder of him.

Mary’s mother, my friend Ann Marie, told me she was wondering if allowing PennLive to publicize the story was the right thing to do. After all, she is protective of her children, and is even reluctant to post pictures of them on Facebook. But she had heard that such positive stories can save the lives of Down syndrome children (It has been estimated that 90 percent of Down syndrome babies are aborted.). If it could save one life, she figured the discomfort of the spotlight would be worth it.

I have watched Mary grow up into a beautiful young woman. I have known her to rise very early to attend church with her family on weekday mornings. She is a very special girl, and it is heartwarming that the world has come to recognize that through the “prom-promise” made by an equally special young man.

Ben and Mary’s friendship should provide a lesson to us all.

Pennsylvania Girl Gives Hope to Down Syndrome Families with “Chloe’s Law”

We have a young heroine for life in our state.

Her name is Chloe Kondrich, and she has Down syndrome. The 11-year-old and her family have made it their mission to educate people about the precious value of individuals with Down syndrome. The family received our Pennsylvania Pro-Life Leadership Award in 2011.

Chloe Kondrich joins Gov. Tom Corbett to sign "Chloe's Law" on July 18, 2014, in Harrisburg.

Chloe Kondrich joins Gov. Tom Corbett to sign “Chloe’s Law” on July 18, 2014, in Harrisburg.

On Friday, July 18, Chloe stood with Gov. Tom Corbett as he signed “Chloe’s Law,” a measure that ensures Pennsylvania moms have access to accurate information and support when their preborn baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Sadly, preborn babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome often become victims of abortion. One study suggests that 90 percent are aborted.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Kishore Vellody, medical director of the Down Syndrome Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC … [said] he sees the necessity of the new law, which will outline physicians’ responsibilities in delivering the news of a Down syndrome prenatal diagnosis.

“‘Published data shows that less than half of people felt like their training was accurate in communicating prenatal diagnosis,’ he said. ‘Even in my med school textbooks, a lot of things we learned about Down syndrome was inaccurate because it takes so long to have them updated.’

“Within the past 30 years, the increase in information and standard medical care has been dramatic and is mirrored by the increase in life expectancy for people with Down syndrome, from 25 in the 1980s to 60 and beyond now.

“‘Our goal in medicine is to make sure people receive balanced and accurate information when they make decisions about health care,’ Dr. Vellody said. ‘That’s why we support endeavors to help expectant parents.'”

Chloe’s parents, Kurt and Margie Kondrich, understand the emotions that families feel when they discover their child has Down syndrome. They believe the new law will help alleviate fears and give hope to the families.

Chloe and her family truly are Pennsylvania heroes, spreading the message to families that there’s always a reason to choose life!