Legislation that would prohibit the abortion of a child due solely to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome passed the House of Representatives on April 16 by a vote of 139-56.
Under current law, a woman can obtain an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestational age for any reason, except if the woman’s sole reason is to select the sex of the child. This bill, championed by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair), will expand that exception to prohibit aborting a child simply because of a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome. The law would have no restrictions on a mother obtaining an abortion in cases of rape, incest or personal endangerment.
“The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome,” said Ward. “Medical and social advances have changed what it means to live with this condition. Down syndrome means that opportunities exist in every area of school, community and even professional life. We’ve learned too much to accept that Down syndrome citizens should be considered anything less than full members of the community. They deserve respect and the protection of our laws.”
Down syndrome is a congenital, chromosome abnormality causing developmental delays and physical limitations impacting a child’s height and facial appearance. In recent years, celebrity support and public awareness about advances in support for families impacted by the condition have dramatically improved the life span and educational and work opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.
The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.