Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday vetoed an amended version of the 1989 Abortion Control Act that would have prohibited abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, which occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
The Down Syndrome Protection Act (HB 321) was first introduced and referred to the House Health Committee in April. The amendment passed the state House in a 117-76 vote, and the Senate passed the measure 27-22.
HB 321 would have made the termination of a Down syndrome child a third-degree felony for physicians, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Additionally, a doctor who violated this provision would have been guilty of “unprofessional conduct” and may have had their medical license suspended or revoked.
Despite bipartisan approval of the amendment, Wolf vetoed HB 321, saying the legislation would “interfere with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians.”
“I am not aware of a single disability rights group that supports this bill,” he continued. “I support continuing the bipartisan work that’s been done to help people with disabilities.”
But Rep. Kate Klunk, primary sponsor of HB 321, disagreed. “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.”
This is not the first time Wolf has forced his pro-abortion views on Pennsylvania constituents. In 2017, he rejected a measure to ban elective abortions after 20 weeks and criminalize dismemberment abortion, despite approval from the Pennsylvania Senate and the House Health Committee. According to LifeNews.com, Wolf’s 2018 re-election campaign received $1.5 million in support from Planned Parenthood.
Although Wolf claimed to not know of any disability rights group in support of HB 321, a Facebook post by Pennsylvania Family Council claimed that was not the case.
“He continues to say no disability rights groups supported [HB 321] yet we presented several to the governor and elected officials, including Joni and Friends and their founder, Joni Eareckson Tada,” the post read.
“Countries like Iceland and Denmark are aborting nearly every child diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb,” said Dan Bartkowiak, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “Here in America, we’re trending towards Iceland with the majority of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome being aborted. Pennsylvania is better than this. Let’s stop medical professionals from coercing women to abort their child solely because of Down syndrome, and let’s truly celebrate people with Down syndrome for the wonderful contributions they make to our state.”
In 2017, a CBS News report suggested that 100% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in Iceland are aborted. Comparably, the termination rate was 77% in France, 90% in the United Kingdom and 67% in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every 700 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, making Down syndrome the most common chromosomal condition. About 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year.