By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Civil-liberties advocates call a bill passed Monday by Pennsylvania’s House Health Committee “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
House Bill 2050 would make it a crime to perform an abortion based on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Elizabeth Randol, legislative director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, noted that other states have passed similar laws, but none has gone into effect.
“It attempts to ban abortion prior to viability,” she said, “and, beginning in Roe vs. Wade all the way through subsequent Supreme Court decisions, that has been repeatedly affirmed flatly unconstitutional.”
Supporters of the bill have said people with Down syndrome can lead happy lives and contribute to their communities. HB 2050 could come up for a final vote in the House next week. There is no similar bill in the Senate.
Randol said medical test results are not shared with law enforcement and establishing a diagnosis as the sole motivation for an abortion would be difficult at best. She contended that the legislation is strictly political.
“It utilizes a very difficult decision for some people and a very complex one to exploit the people that it affects as a wedge to try to legislate abortion control,” she said.
She added that the bill was put on the committee’s agenda late last Friday afternoon, after it was too late for members of the House to file amendments.
Randol said there already is a very long waiting list of people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome in Pennsylvania who are desperate for services. There is inadequate state funding for support professionals, she said, but this bill doesn’t address those issues.
“They have done nothing to provide any help or assistance for both children and adults with Down syndrome,” she said, “and no assistance or education for women or parents who would want to bring a pregnancy to term.”
A federal court stopped implementation of a similar law in Indiana in 2016, and last month an Ohio ban was blocked while a lawsuit challenging it is litigated.
The text of House Bill 2050 is online at legis.state.pa.us.