On Thursday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed legislation that sought to protect unborn children with Down syndrome from being aborted based on their medical diagnosis.
House Bill 321, or the Down Syndrome Protection Act, would have prohibited abortions based solely on the diagnosis of Down syndrome — a chromosomal disorder that causes physical and intellectual disabilities. It passed the out of the state’s House of Representatives back in March and cleared the Senate on Wednesday.
In a statement accompanying his veto, Wolf said that there was “no evidence that this bill is needed in Pennsylvania” and cited “significant concerns that enforcement of this legislation would upend the doctor-patient relationship and impede on patient confidentiality.”
“This legislation is a restriction on women and medical professionals and interferes with women’s health care and the crucial decision-making between patients and their physicians,” Wolf said.
Proponents of the legislation, however, said that Wolf’s veto shows him siding against children with Down syndrome and with eugenics through abortion.
“Shame on Governor Wolf for blocking this compassionate, popular bill. He has signed a death sentence for countless unborn babies targeted for abortion merely because they may have Down syndrome,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a press release. “The Pennsylvania legislature’s bold action is part of growing nationwide momentum to put an end to lethal discrimination – but Governor Wolf is an abortion extremist who consistently obstructs the will of Pennsylvanians.”
“Governor Tom Wolf believes it’s just fine to kill babies in the womb solely because of a prenatal diagnosis of a disability,” said Michael Greer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “That is eugenics. That’s wrong.”
In a blog post, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation education director Bonnie Finnerty took issue with the governor’s explanation for issuing the veto, writing, “This is not about health care. This is about judging someone’s life as not worth living.”
“This is about exterminating a group of people because they are different and perceived by some to be a burden,” Finnerty continues. “This is not health care. It’s elitism.”
Meanwhile, the constitutionality of state laws barring abortions based on disabilities is currently working its way through the federal courts. Ohio passed an abortion bill to protect children with Down syndrome in 2017, but it was recently struck down by a ruling from the Sixth Circuit.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case of an Indiana law that bars discriminatory abortions based on sex, race, or disability. The law was blocked by the Seventh Circuit. In an opinion concurring with the court’s denial, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that while the court may have decided to allow the issue to further ripen in the lower courts, it would eventually have to weigh in on the issue, warning, “Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex, or disability of an unborn child … would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement.”