HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week passed a bill that bans a woman from having an abortion when the only reason is that the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The proposal is being cheered by some, criticized by others, and is among the latest battles in the broader war over abortion.
“This vote was significant and important and puts a marker down that Pennsylvania cares about life,” said Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
“Let’s call it what it is: it’s an unconstitutional abortion ban,” said Laura Weis, communications director for Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania.
The bill has exceptions for rape, incest, and the mother’s life. It faces a veto if it reaches Gov. Tom Wolf.
“Some say as much as 80 percent of Down syndrome children are targeted with death through abortion,” Geer said.
“Saying that it’s going to help people with Down syndrome and their families when really, it does nothing to provide resources,” Weis said.
For Geer, the bill isn’t so much about the mother but the doctor. He said he has heard from women pressured by physicians to abort after a Down syndrome diagnosis. One woman’s story has stuck with him.
“Several times, a nurse or other medical professionals came into the hospital room and said, Oh, didn’t you take the test? – meaning why didn’t you have your baby aborted,” he said.
Weis doesn’t agree. She said doctors gain nothing from pressuring women to abort.
“We’re not here to judge or shame or coerce. We are here to make sure that they are making the decisions that are best for them and their families,” she said.
The Pennsylvania bill comes amid a nationwide trend of abortion restriction. Weis fears its part of a greater plan to turn back the clock and make them illegal.
“It’s not just about pregnant people in Alabama, it’s about pregnant people across the country,” Weis said.
“No one rightly can say it’s a clump of cells. It’s a human being. It has distinct DNA, distinct chromosomes, distinct life,” Geer said.