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Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, "Submission Requirements" on our Home Page for more details.

Legislative Protection for Downs Syndrome Children Continues Progress

Maria Gallagher    16 August 2018

It was one of those posts that seemed to light up the social media site known as Facebook.

The post depicted a photo of a teenager with Down syndrome, with a cross sky-written above her head. Accompanying the photo was this text, written by her father, Kurt Kondrich:

“This morning Chloe looked out the window and said, ‘I see Him dad, I see Jesus!’ We walked outside and she pointed into the sky where a Cross had appeared - PRICELESS! Chloe has strong favor with Jesus and she is an instrument God is using to restore a culture of LIFE! ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.’ Matthew 18:10”

Chloe has become a kind of goodwill ambassador, traveling the United States to show the promise and possibility of children born with Down syndrome. She has met the President and Vice-President and been photographed with recording artists, sports stars, and other celebrities.

Currently, Chloe is on a mission to enact legislation to ensure that preborn babies with Down syndrome are not targeted for destruction. House Bill 2050, also known as the Down Syndrome Protection Act, is a common sense piece of legislation which was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives earlier this year. The bill would ban abortion for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. 

 

State Representative Judy Ward, a Republican from Blair County, PA, co-sponsored the bill, along with House Speaker Mike Turzai, a Republican from Allegheny County.

When the bill was introduced, Rep. Ward stated, “The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome. 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.” 

Rep. Ward pointed out that, at the beginning of the 20th century, a baby born with Down syndrome was not expected to live past his or her 10th birthday. But in 2018, the life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome is 60 years of age.

The impetus for the Pennsylvania bill was a disturbing media report indicating that babies with Down syndrome were being aborted in Iceland at an alarming rate. Rep. Turzai believes that this lethal form of discrimination must end.

“We’re raising the concern in Pennsylvania because of some tragic trends in European countries,” Turzai said. “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 rate of pre-born children with this diagnosis. 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.” 

In their joint news release, Rep. Turzai and Rep. Ward noted how one U.S. company had made history by selecting a baby with Down syndrome as its spokes model: “Gerber introduced the world to Lucas Warren, who was selected as the 2018 Gerber baby. Lucas is a healthy 1-year-old from Dalton, Ga., who is full of spirit and potential. He also has 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.”

House Bill 2050 passed the PA House in April by an overwhelming bipartisan, veto-proof majority of 139 to 56. The legislation then moved to the PA Senate, where it was reported out of the Senate Judiciary committee in June.

The PA Senate recessed for the summer without taking a full vote on the measure. But advocates for the legislation—especially families with children with Down syndrome—hold out hope that the Senate will approve the bill once it returns to session in September.

PA Governor Tom Wolf, who has volunteered for the abortion giant Planned Parenthood, has stated that he will not sign any bills that would limit what he refers to as “abortion access.” However, he has been far less vocal on the Down Syndrome Protection Act than other pro-life bills. Observers believe his silence is based on the fact that he does not want to be perceived as opposing people with disabilities.

Pro-life advocates continue to work to secure a veto-proof majority in the Senate. In the meantime, young people like Chloe Kondrich continue to inspire hope that someday all children with Down syndrome will be protected under the law.

Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, gallagher@paprolife.org