HARRISBURG - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania blasted a state House committee today for endangering women by passing legislation that would make it a crime to perform an abortion based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The ACLU noted that similar laws in other states have been prevented from taking effect by federal courts.
“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,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “This bill is unconstitutional and unenforceable. And any serious person in the House knows it.”
Introduced by Representative Mike Turzai and passed today by the House Health Committee, House Bill 2050 is similar to laws that were passed in Ohio and Indiana. A federal court stopped the Indiana law in 2016 before it could be implemented, saying 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.”
A federal court blocked Ohio’s ban last month while a lawsuit challenging it proceeds.
Medical professionals, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have also spoken out in opposition to the legislation.
“When a woman receives a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome, it's my job to offer her support, whether to terminate the pregnancy or to connect with the resources she will need to care for her child,” said Dr. Amanda Roman, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Jefferson University Hospital. “Rather than interfering with women's personal decisions, lawmakers should make sure parents of kids with Down syndrome have the supports they need to meet their family’s medical needs.”
HB 2050 is the latest in an ongoing series of bills in the General Assembly to limit women’s options in abortion care. In December, Governor Wolf vetoed a bill to prohibit abortion after 19 weeks gestation and to ban a common method of abortion.
“Once again, this committee is playing games with women’s health and flaunting transparency in the process,” said Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who noted that the committee posted the bill to its agenda on Friday afternoon after it was too late for members to file amendments. “If you have to post a Monday vote late on a Friday afternoon, your bill probably isn’t worth consideration.
"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."
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.