HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania lawmakers opposed to abortion have initiated legislation to bar women from the procedure because their unborn babies were diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The proposal, announced Monday, comes three months after Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a measure that would have prevented women from getting an abortion after 20 weeks. His spokesman said he also opposes the latest bill.
“Governor Wolf has been clear that a woman’s health decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not politicians in Harrisburg,” said Wolf aide J.J. Abbott. “There is no evidence that this practice is even occurring, yet this is another example of Harrisburg Republicans exploiting vulnerable families and trying to undermine the doctor-patient relationship to score political points.”
If the restriction on Down syndrome abortions is passed by the Legislature, it would require a two-thirds vote of both the Senate and the House to override Wolf’s veto.
Pennsylvania in 2014 enacted a law that requires health care providers to provide information about services available to women who get prenatal diagnosis indicating their babies have Down syndrome, a congenital disorder causing mental and physical disabilities.
Pennsylvania allows women to get abortions before 24 weeks for any reason, except the gender of the baby.
North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana have passed laws barring women from getting abortions based on Down syndrome diagnosis.
Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, lead sponsor of the proposed law for Pennsylvania, described it as “disability rights legislation.”
Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Harrisburg Roman Catholic Diocese announced last week he strongly supports the legislation.
“Now more than ever, babies born with Down syndrome have the opportunity to live long, happy, and productive lives,” he said in a statement.
“Instead of selectively aborting unborn babies with Down syndrome, we should be celebrating the lives of all children, including those with Down syndrome.”
JOHN Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Herald and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.