House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair) issued the following press release:
House Speaker Mike Turzai and Rep. Judy Ward are introducing legislation that would prohibit the abortion of a child due solely to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome.
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.
According to recent reports, at the turn of the 20th century a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome was not expected to live past their 10th birthday. In 2018, the life expectacy for an individual with Down syndrome has been extended to age 60 and beyond.
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 Turzai-Ward bill will expand that exception to prohibit aborting a child due solely to 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.
“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 of pre-born children with this diagnosis,” said Turzai. “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.”
Studies show that as many as nine out of 10 children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome are aborted in the United States and mothers are being indirectly or directly pressured or advised to make this decision by genetic counselors and the culture.
“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.”
Four other states have taken steps to protect these children by passing laws prohibiting abortions because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
“Although Chloe’s Law (Act 130 of 2014) has been a valuable tool in educating parents about the quality of life of a person with Down syndrome, the abortion rate for children is still too high,” said Turzai. “It’s time to protect children with Down syndrome at every stage of life—especially at their most vulnerable.”