Wolf vetoes Down syndrome abortion ban

    Governor Wolf, joined by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, announces a $317 million deposit into PA's Rainy Day Fund at the Harrisburg Capitol on July 9.

    Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed another bill, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, that aims to restrict access to abortion.

    On Thursday, Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a proposal,  co-sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, and state House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, that would have banned abortion in case of an in-utero diagnosis of Down syndrome.

    In his veto message, Wolf said the bill was unconstitutional and intruded on women’s health care by interfering in  “the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians.”

    Republicans have portrayed the proposal as a disability rights measure, saying it would stop protect the dignity of life for people with Down syndrome — a genetic anomaly that alters a person’s intellectual and physical development.

    “I find it inconsistent for Gov. Wolf to say in one breath that he supports all people with disabilities, including those with Down Syndrome, while in another breath, he refuses to stand up for them when they need a voice the most – before birth,” Klunk said in a statement earlier this week.

    But Wolf, who has previously vowed to veto any attempt to restrict access to abortion if it reaches his desk, said that he was “not aware of a single disability rights group that supports this bill.”

    “I support continuing the bipartisan work that’s been done to help people with disabilities. I also believe there is much more Pennsylvania could do to help women and families facing complex pregnancies,” the veto message reads. “However, this bill does not aid in either of these efforts.”

    The bill passed the House in May 117-76, and the Senate 27-22 Wednesday. It received bipartisan support in both chambers, but much closer margins than abortion votes have typically achieved in previous years.

    Wolf had previously vetoed a 20-week abortion ban in 2017, and has a standing promise to veto any bill that would restrict a women’s access to abortion.

    In a statement, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates executive director Ashley Lenker White said the proposed Down syndrome ban would be unenforceable.

    “We can all agree that people with Down syndrome can and do lead full lives,” Lenker White said. “But this measure is not about protecting individuals with Down syndrome and their families. This bill is yet another unconstitutional attempt to ban safe, legal abortion in Pennsylvania. It does nothing to better the lives of people with Down syndrome, improve the accuracy of screening tests, or attempt to better inform the public about disabilities.”

    A similar ban passed by Ohio in 2017 was found unconstitutional last month.