Pennsylvania House Passes Bill Banning Abortions For Down Syndrome

Pennsylvania's House has passed a bill seeking to ban abortions based on a diagnosis that a fetus has Down syndrome.

House Bill 2050 looks to prohibit abortions sought because of a "prenatal diagnosis of, or belief that the unborn child has, Down syndrome."

The House passed the bill with bipartisan support in a 139-56 vote, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The measure must now go to Senate, where Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who has expressed his opposition to the bill, is expected to veto it if given the chance. Wolf already vetoed a similar bill in December that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai, who sponsored the bill, has claimed it aims to prevent "eugenics," the practice of intentionally changing the genetic composition of the human race.

"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," Turzai said in a statement.

Republican Representative Judy Ward, who co-authored the legislation, said fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome "deserve respect and the protection of our laws. 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," Ward said.

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Elizabeth Randol, Legislative Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, called the bill "unconstitutional," arguing that the legislation was strictly political.

"It utilizes a very difficult decision for some people, and a very complex one, to exploit the people that it affects, as a wedge to try to legislate abortion control," she said in a statement.

She also said the bill does nothing to address inadequate state funding for support professionals for families affected by Down syndrome.

"They have done nothing to provide any help or assistance for both children and adults with Down syndrome, and no assistance or education for women or parents who would want to bring a pregnancy to term," Randol said.

Pennsylvania state law currently allows for abortions for any reason, aside from the gender of the fetus, for up to 24 weeks into pregnancy.