South Dakota governor calls for Down syndrome abortion ban

South_Dakota_Governor_Kristi_Noem_Credit_Alex_Wong__Getty_Images.jpg South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images.

The governor of South Dakota asked state lawmakers on Tuesday to introduce a bill banning abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

“The Declaration of Independence summarizes what we all know in our hearts to be true—that God created each of us and endowed all of us with the right to life. This is true for everyone, including those with an extra chromosome,” Gov. Kristi Noem (R) of South Dakota said at her 2021 State of the State address in Pierre.

Noem received a standing ovation after that line, from legislators and audience members in the house chamber of the state capitol.

She then asked legislators to “pass a law that bans the abortion of a preborn child just because that child is diagnosed with Down syndrome,” a request that also received applause from audience members.

On Fox News on Tuesday, Noem said that “every single life is precious, regardless of what situation the family is facing, and that every life is a blessing.”


She invited the family of former Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy, a Catholic, to be present at her address; the youngest child of the Duffy family, Valentina, has Down syndrome.

“Valentina has given me as much joy and pride as any of my other little babies, and she’s an American, and she has a right to live just like everybody else,” Rachel Duffy said on Fox News on Tuesday, appearing alongside Sean and Valentina Duffy, and Noem.

“I would tell you it’s scary, because we were scared,” Sean Duffy recalled of receiving the Down syndrome diagnosis for their child. Yet, he added, “this little girl is the favorite of our family.”

Noem mentioned Iceland in her address on Tuesday, as one of the European countries “on pace to virtually eliminate children with Down syndrome” through abortion.

“Now as South Dakotans, and frankly, as human beings, we should all be appalled by this. We are better than that,” she said.

In Iceland, according to a 2017 CBS News report, nearly 100% of babies diagnosed with down syndrome are aborted. As CNA reported, only 18 children with Down syndrome were born in Denmark in 2019, the lowest number on record there.

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In contrast, according to CDC estimates, around 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born annually in the United States, although abortions based on a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis are still common.

Other states in recent years, including Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Mississippi, have enacted bans on abortions conducted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

South Dakota was one of the states to sign on to a brief supporting Tennessee’s discrimination abortion ban before the courts. In November, 18 states supported Tennessee’s law banning abortions based on an unborn child’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis. The legislation is facing legal challenges.

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