By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director
Children with Down syndrome and their families achieved an astounding victory last week, as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation designed to protect preborn babies who have been diagnosed with an extra chromosome.
House Bill 2050, the Down Syndrome Protection Act, achieved passage by an incredible vote of 139-56. The bill passed with a veto-proof majority—extremely important in a Commonwealth led by a pro-abortion Governor, Tom Wolf.
The disability rights bill has tremendous crossover appeal—it is being backed by both Republicans and Democrats, men and women. In fact, legislators who have voted pro-abortion in the past embraced the legislation because of its laser focus on children with disabilities.
The Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County), was one of the prime sponsors of the bill. He eloquently stated the case for the legislation: “I believe in the dignity of every human being. None of us are born perfect, and we all have something beautiful to contribute. Pennsylvania is a loving, compassionate community, and we want to extend welcome and support to Down syndrome families. They need to know they’re not alone,” Turzai said.
Another prime sponsor, Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair), spoke of the tremendous potential of people with a Down syndrome diagnosis. “The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome,” Ward said. “Medical and social advances have changed what it means to live with this condition. Down syndrome means that opportunities exist in every area of school, community and even professional life. We’ve learned too much to accept that Down syndrome citizens should be considered anything less than full members of the community. They deserve respect and the protection of our laws.”
During a well-received media event at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Karen Gaffney, who has Down syndrome, impressed the crowd with her impassioned remarks. Gaffney defied the odds by swimming the English Channel and receiving an honorary doctorate for her many accomplishments.
“Those of us with Down syndrome and our families face a very difficult future. We face a possibility of wiping out all of the tremendous progress we have made. Just as we are making so much progress, a whole industry has grown up focused on prenatal screening – screening that would end our lives before we take our first breath. Now that you can test for Down syndrome before birth, there are many experts in the medical community that say this extra chromosome we carry around is not compatible with life. Not compatible with life?” asked Gaffney. “After everything we have done, I would say we are more than compatible. We are what life is all about. Our lives are worth living and our lives are worth learning about.”
The bill now moves onto the Pennsylvania Senate for consideration. Pennsylvania residents are urged to call their state Senators and encourage them to support House Bill 2050.