House votes to ban Down syn­drome abor­tions

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - WEATHER - By Mark Scolforo

A pro­posal to pro­hibit abor­tions in Penn­syl­va­nia when the sole rea­son is that the fe­tus has or may have Down syn­drome passed the state House on Mon­day by a com­fort­able mar­gin.

The Repub­li­can-ma­jor­ity cham­ber voted 139-56 to send the Sen­ate a bill that sup­port­ers said would pro­tect a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion.

“I think some­times, ‘Oh my good­ness, what if my par­ents for some rea­son didn’t think I was good enough as an un­born child?’” said House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Al­legheny, the prime spon­sor.

The fate of the bill is un­clear in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate, but Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf op­poses it.

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

“Doc­tors should not be forced to be­come grand in­quisi­tors, but we’re left with a bill that does just that, one I hope the gover­nor will be quick to veto,” said Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Al­legheny.

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, or be­lief that the un­born child has, Down syn­drome.”

Ma­jor­ity Whip Bryan Cut­ler, R-Lan­caster, dis­puted op­po­nents’ ar­gu­ments that the Leg­is­la­ture should be fo­cused on do­ing more for peo­ple with Down syn­drome and other con­di­tions. He said law­mak­ers have funded such ef­forts.

“It’s sim­ply not ac­cu­rate to say these in­di­vid­u­als are over­looked or not cared for once they are born,” Cut­ler said.

A spokes­woman for Wolf called the bill “an­other ex­am­ple of Harrisburg Repub­li­cans ex­ploit­ing vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies and try­ing to un­der­mine the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship to score po­lit­i­cal points.”

“Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­cans are try­ing once again to crim­i­nal­ize a health care de­ci­sion that Gov. Wolf has been clear should be made by a woman and her doc­tor, not politi­cians in Harrisburg,” said Wolf deputy press sec­re­tary Sara Goulet.

A sim­i­lar bill that was en­acted last year in Ohio has been put on hold by a fed­eral judge, who said op­po­nents were “highly likely” to show the law vi­o­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Planned Par­ent­hood Penn­syl­va­nia Ad­vo­cates called the bill a co­or­di­nated at­tack on safe and le­gal abortion and women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights. The group and their al­lies on the House floor noted the leg­is­la­tion was not the sub­ject of pub­lic hear­ings.

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