thursday, 19 april of 2018

Pennsylvania House approves bill banning abortions for Down syndrome

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday voted 139-56 to approve HB 2050, which prohibits abortions if the fetus is diagnosed with or believed to have Down syndrome.

In April the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania referred to the bill as an unconstitutional restriction on reproductive rights, thereby making it unenforceable. Executive Director Reggie Shuford said, "The representatives who voted for this bill failed to give any serious consideration to its legal ramifications. Instead, they chose to pursue their extreme agenda to harm women. This bill is unconstitutional and unenforceable. And any serious person in the House knows it."

Others in opposition of the bill argue that it does nothing to offer support, financial or otherwise, to those subsequently born with Down syndrome. According to Legislative Director of the ACLU Elizabeth Randol, "This bill does nothing to educate or provide assistance to a woman and her family about having a child with a disability and does nothing to ensure that people living with disabilities have access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, or other vital services they may need."

Pennsylvania House Speakers Mike Turzai and Judy Ward, sponsors of the bill, argued that the bill is an concerned effort to reduce the number of abortions based on the diagnosis of Down syndrome, which is at almost 90 percent.

A similar bill was passed in Ohio and was temporarily blocked by a federal judge, concluding that a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy pre-viability is "categorical" and that the "State cannot dictate what factors a woman is permitted to consider in making her choice." In 2016 then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a similar bill, which banned abortions motivated by the fetus' gender, race or potential disabilities. This bill was later also blocked by a federal judge, finding that limiting the reasons for an abortion was "inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns and a liberty right to make independent decisions."

The Pennsylvania bill now makes it way to the Senate.

(Published by Jurist, April 18, 2018)

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