HARRISBURG, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is catching heat for vetoing a bill on Thursday that would have protected preborn babies with Down Syndrome from being intentionally targeted for elimination in the womb.
Pennsylvania law allows for abortion up to the first 24 weeks of the preborn child's life for any reason except gender selection. HB 321 would have added another restriction on abortion to protect those with Down Syndrome.
In a statement issued Thursday, Wolf claimed the legislation would interfere with "crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians." Opponents of the bill argued it violates the right of women to make their own decisions about their body.
"I have significant concerns that enforcement of this legislation would upend the doctor-patient relationship and impede on patient confidentiality," he added, saying it is "not consistent with the fundamental rights vested by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
The 14th Amendment protects individual rights of life, liberty and property, and guarantees equal protection under the law. No mention was made, however, about the apparent inconsistency in relation to the 14th Amendment of this veto with legislation already in place that bans sex-selective abortion. The "right of women to make their own decision" about abortion is already curtailed in Pennsylvania to prohibit the killing of a child based on being the "wrong" sex.
Pro-life leaders are speaking out against the veto. Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said the veto is akin to support for eugenics.
"Governor Tom Wolf believes it's just fine to kill babies in the womb solely because of a prenatal diagnosis of a disability," Geer said. "That is eugenics. That's wrong."
"And one way Pennsylvanians can respond to Governor Wolf's veto is by marching with us at the first-ever Pennsylvania March for Life on May 18, 2020," he said. "Together, we can tell Governor Wolf and everyone in Harrisburg that life should be protected."
Tim M. Killmeyer, Diaconal Assistant to Persons with Disabilities for the Diocese of Pittsbugh told Church Militant that this veto is an affront to human dignity:
"The Diocese of Pittsburgh Office for Persons with Disabilities joins the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference in its condemnation of Gov. Tom Wolf's veto of the Down Syndrome Protection Act. People with Down syndrome and the people who love them surely consider his veto of this bill to be an affront to their human dignity and a sign of prejudice toward them. We applaud the efforts of the Democratic and Republican lawmakers who supported the bill."
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser condemned the veto by saying Wolf signed "a death sentence" for babies with Down syndrome.
"Shame on Governor Wolf for blocking this compassionate, popular bill," she said. "He has signed a death sentence for countless unborn babies targeted for abortion merely because they may have Down syndrome."
"The Pennsylvania legislature's bold action is part of growing nationwide momentum to put an end to lethal discrimination," she noted, "but Governor Wolf is an abortion extremist who consistently obstructs the will of Pennsylvanians."
Maria V. Gallagher, legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, spoke with Church Militant, decrying the governor's veto.
"The Down Syndrome Protection Act is a common sense bill that would have protected the lives of some of Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens," she said. "These are individuals who contribute greatly to our families, schools, workplaces, and communities."
"Despite the Governor's veto," she explained, "we will continue to work to protect the lives of babies with Down syndrome and all preborn children, who are most deserving of our care and compassion."
Al Gnoza, communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, also spoke with Church Militant: "Gov. Wolf’s veto will prevent all children with Down's Syndrome from going on to live happy and fulfilled lives. Had Gov. Wolf signed this legislation, he would've ensured the protection of humanity's most vulnerable lives."
"We thank all legislators who came together in a bi-partisan fashion to support this common-sense legislation, and PCC looks forward to working with them again to protect the sanctity of life," he added.
States that have already enacted legislation to ban the eugenic practice of Down Syndrome abortion include Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana, Kentucky Arkansas, Missouri and Utah. Nine states have bans on sex-selective abortion.
This issue came to the forefront of America's collective consciousness after it was widely reported that the country of Iceland had eliminated nearly all people with Down Syndrome. The technology of prenatal screening began in the 1980s in conjunction with the post-Roe abortion age, and has endangered the lives of children with physical anomalies.
The numbers of women in the United States who have chosen to abort their Down Syndrome children is estimated to be anywhere from 70%–90%. This has prompted people like John F. Stevens, who has Down Syndrome, to speak out for his right to life and to affirm the dignity of all people who live with this chromosomal abnormality. Stevens pleaded with his audience that he ought to be seen "as a human being, not a birth defect."
Evidence shows that people with Down Syndrome contribute significantly to the well-being and cohesion of their families.