Democratic Pa. governor vetoes ban on Down-Syndrome abortion

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Governor Tom Wolf © WikiMedia

The Democratic governor of Pennsylvania last week vetoed a bill that would have shielded fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome from being aborted for their illness.

Gov. Tom Wolf argued that the bill was unconstitutional and “not consistent with the fundamental rights” protected by the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy. “This legislation is a restriction on women and medical professionals and interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians,” Wolf said in a prepared statement.

Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy for any reason except the fetus’ gender. The bill, which passed the Republican-controlled legislature a day earlier, aimed to forbid abortions over a prenatal Down-syndrome diagnosis as well, although it included exceptions for rape, incest, and medical necessity.

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates also objected to the bill, the National Review reported, saying it is unconstitutional and nearly impossible to enforce.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in 700 babies in the U.S., about 6,000 a year, is born with Down syndrome, a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome and marked by developmental and physical growth delays.

The National Association for Down Syndrome website says that children with Down Syndrome are “more like other children than they are different.”

“It is important to remember that while children and adults with Down syndrome experience developmental delays, they also have many talents and gifts and should be given the opportunity and encouragement to develop them,” information on the website reads. Pennsylvania’s governor is a vocal abortion rights supporter and also rejected a measure in 2017 that would have banned elective abortions after 20 weeks, a week earlier than the youngest premature baby has survived. In August, Wolf’s administration also announced plans to close two state centers for the intellectually and developmentally disabled, including some with Down syndrome. A previous closure of a similar facility in Pennsylvania resulted in the deaths of eleven of the 85 former residents.

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