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Pennsylvania HB 1500 & the National Debate to Protect the preborn with Down Syndrome
Maria V. Gallagher | 08 July 2021
In an emotional appeal to the hearts and minds of her fellow legislators, Pennsylvania State Representative Kate Klunk (R-York County) urged the House Health Committee to approve Down syndrome protection legislation.
“We need to love these children inside the womb and outside of the womb,” Klunk said. She was speaking on behalf of House Bill 1500, which would prohibit abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. “We need to stand up for those who don’t have a voice in PA,” Klunk noted. The lawmaker, who is the mother of two girls, pointed out that “children with Down syndrome live amazing lives.” She also stated that families with children with Down syndrome with whom she has spoken “don’t see that extra chromosome as a challenge. They see it as a blessing.”
House Bill 1500 was reported out of the Health Committee by a vote of 15-10. It ultimately won passage in the PA House of Representatives by a margin of 120-83. The legislation is now pending in the state Senate.
One lawmaker who has spearheaded the effort to pass Down syndrome protection legislation in the PA Senate is state Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster County). A champion of children with special needs, Senator Martin sponsored not only a version of the Down Syndrome Protection Act, but also a resolution officially recognizing March 21st as World Down Syndrome Day in Pennsylvania.
In his co-sponsorship memo, Senator Martin provided clear evidence of the tremendous progress made by people with Down syndrome, both in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and throughout the world. He noted that, because of miraculous medical advances, many people with Down syndrome now live past the age of 50. In fact, the life expectancy is even higher in the U.S.
As Senator Martin states, “This shows that when given the opportunities associated with early intervention, therapies, quality education, and support from families and the community, individuals with Down syndrome can adapt and thrive.”
At the recent National Right to Life Convention in Herndon, Virginia, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) related how the nation of Iceland had reported it was close to eliminating Down syndrome. There was no miracle cure—Iceland was eliminating babies with an extra chromosome. Cotton noted that his state has passed its own Down syndrome protection legislation, and that “Arkansas is prepared to take the fight for children with Down syndrome all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Education is also key to stopping the spread of the Down syndrome genocide. Some years ago, Pennsylvania enacted a statute known as Chloe’s Law. The law ensures that pregnant women who receive a Down syndrome prenatal diagnosis receive support and resources. This support can literally mean the difference between life and death.
While a number of members of the state Senate have expressed strong support for the Down Syndrome Protection Act, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the measure, as he did previously. In fact, Wolf, a former clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion operation, has pledged to veto all pro-life legislation during his remaining time in office.
It has been said that the Wolf Administration is the most blatantly pro-abortion Administration in the history of the Pennsylvania Governor’s office. The radical stand comes despite public opinion polls show most members of the general public oppose most abortions. Pennsylvania was also home to the landmark Abortion Control Act. The measure, which was duplicated in states throughout the country, provided for informed consent, parental consent, a 24-hour-waiting period for abortion, and a ban on sex selection abortions.
The Down Syndrome Protection Act would simply add to the sex selection abortion ban a ban on abortions for preborn babies with an extra chromosome.
Meanwhile, people with Down syndrome are challenging limits and artificially-set boundaries every day. “As a result of changing attitudes, these individuals have gone on to be productive, influential and inspirational members of societies across the world,” Senator Martin said.
People with Down syndrome are a tremendous blessing to their families, their workplaces, their schools, and their communities. We need to share more of these stories so that, when couples learn that their preborn babies are likely to have Down syndrome, they will not be fearful. Education and support can wipe out the fear, enabling families to embrace these special children with the love they deserve. Legislation can also be a teaching tool, informing people about the humanity of the preborn child, including preborn children with Down syndrome.
2022 will be marked by a Governor’s race in Pennsylvania, where the pro-life issue—including how the issue relates to people with disabilities—will play a key role. It is incumbent upon pro-life Pennsylvanians to know where the candidates stand on this important civil rights issue. You can learn more at www.paprolife.org .
Maria V. Gallagher
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation