Pa. House passes Down Syndrome abortion ban. Wolf vows veto

By: - June 8, 2021 7:14 pm

The Pennsylvania House (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

A bill to ban abortions in cases of an in-utero Down Syndrome diagnosis passed the Pennsylvania House by a vote of 120-83 on Tuesday evening.

“The lives of those with Down Syndrome are lives worth living,” state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York the proposal’s sponsor, said on the House Floor.

Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy under existing state law for any reason, except for the sex of the child. The bill would add a Down Syndrome diagnosis to the list of prohibited reasons.

A 2012 literature review found that two-thirds of fetuses diagnosed in-utero with Down Syndrome were aborted. 

“People with Down Syndrome are facing genocide through abortion,” House Health Committee Chairperson Kathy L. Rapp, R-Warren, and the chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said of the statistic. “That genocide must stop.”

Democrats retorted that the proposal — absent long talked about, but never approved increases to state social services spending for the disabled — was an empty gesture.

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“I respect and honor each individual family and their choice and how they deal with these impossible situations,” said state Rep. Danielle Otten, D-Chester.

Tuesday’s vote marks the third time the House has advanced the proposal. A similar proposal passed the House in April 2018, but was never taken up by the Senate. The House and Senate also passed the bill in 2019, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it.

Wolf has a standing policy of vetoing any bills that restrict access to abortion. And he’s already promised to veto the proposal if it reaches his desk again.

Klunk’s proposal was advanced out of Rapp’s committee late last month as part of a slate of socially conservative proposals.

More conservative proposals, such as a six-week abortion ban, are still being discussed internally among House Republicans. But, as is the case with the Down Syndrome bill, that so-called “heartbeat” ban stands no chance of becoming law.

The House also approved a bill Tuesday allowing out-of-state gun rights groups to sue municipalities if they have ordinances restricting firearms 124-79.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is the Capital-Star's House reporter. He previously covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter. You can reach him at 845-891-4306.

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