May 15, 2019
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday that would ban abortions solely due to a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
Introduced in April, House Bill No. 321 gained a majority of support from the Republican-controlled House, procuring 117 votes for and 76 against. The bill will now go to the Pennsylvania Senate.
The bill seeks to amend the state's Abortion Control Act by adding a second definition of an unlawful abortions to include the prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. The act already prohibits aborting a fetus based on its sex.
The bill has an exception permitting women to get abortions in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment to the mother.
Violating Pennsylvania's abortion act is a felony, Philly.com reported, noting questions raised by critics of anti-abortion laws, about how such a statute would be enforced.
Those in favor of the bill state it is a move to protect people with Down Symdrome. The primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kate Klunk, a Republican from York, said in a statement after the bill gained committee support in early May, "A baby shouldn’t be denied the chance to live simply because he or she faces a prenatal diagnosis of possibly having Down syndrome."
She added, "We shouldn’t allow eugenics to prevent babies with Down Syndrome from being given the chance at life.”
Those opposed to the bill claim that it is one step closer to banning abortion. Rep. Liz Hanbidge of Montgomery County tweeted, "This bill is an unconstitutional ban on a women's right to choose. Republicans want you to think this is about protect the rights of people with disabilities. It is not. It is an attack on women's health."
We are currently debating #HB321 on the floor. This bill is an unconstitutional ban on a women's right to choose. Republicans want you to think this is about protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It is not. It is an attack on women’s health. https://t.co/xsyhgwPG9M— Rep. Liz Hanbidge (@RepHanbidge) May 14, 2019
The ACLU of Pennsylvania citied in a letter to the state House that they are opposed to bill on three counts: Similar abortion bans have been ruled unconstitutional in federal courts; the bill itself doesn't strive to help those with disabilities, and the bill hinders a woman's ability to make "legally protected medical decisions."
In 2018, Rep. Mike Turzai proposed the Down Syndrome Protection Act, which would provided similar restrictions on abortions when there is a Down Syndrome diagnosis. The bill did not pass the in Senate Judiciary committee.