Senate pro-life chair: Down syndrome abortions are ‘eugenics’

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Down syndrome abortions are "eugenics," the Senate pro-life caucus chair told CNA in an interview this week.


"This is eugenics, and we cannot allow this to continue in our country," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, told CNA in an interview on Thursday. Daines was referring to abortions conducted because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.


He admonished fellow senators who support the Special Olympics but who won't vote to ban these abortions.

"On one hand, these pro-abortion thinkers and leaders will applaud the Special Olympics. On the other hand, they support selective abortions for babies with Down syndrome," Daines said. "To me, those are two views that are in great conflict with one another."


The senator spoke with CNA this week about new legislation to ban abortions on the basis of Down syndrome. He also addressed a top concern in the next two years-taxpayer funding of abortions-and discussed the March for Life and his founding of the pro-life caucus in 2019.


Daines has cosponsored the Protecting Individuals with Down Syndrome Act, sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), which prohibits a doctor from performing an abortion that is sought because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.


It is unclear exactly how many babies are aborted because of these prenatal diagnoses, but an estimated 67% of unborn babies with Down syndrome are aborted in the U.S. In some countries such as Iceland, the abortion rate for these cases is estimated to be close to 100%.


Daines called the abortion of babies with Down syndrome "the most lethal kind of discrimination imaginable."


Debate on the issue has prompted some pro-abortion members to reflection, Daines told CNA. After his speech on the Senate Floor on Thursday where he warned that "babies with Down syndrome are the most endangered on Earth," Daines said that a Democratic senator approached him afterward and complimented his speech.


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"He said, 'it made me think-it made me think about where this goes if you are selectively aborting children based on their chromosomes. Where does that go next?'" Daines recounted the conversation.


"And I just listened and nodded my head and said 'you're right, this is a moral question for our country that is basing life on capacity and potential, instead of the dignity the life should have-and that is that all babies, all humans, are created in God's image.'"


Daines spoke with CNA ahead of the 48th annual March for Life, held on Friday afternoon.


For the first time in its history, the annual pro-life gathering was closed to the general public due to the pandemic and to security measures in Washington, D.C.

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Daines lamented that the altered event "is another casualty of the COVID pandemic," but added that it "doesn't in any way reduce the passion and the strong beliefs that we all have to fight for those who can't speak for themselves."


The March on Friday featured taped speeches by pro-life advocates, which were broadcast on EWTN and online; the virtual rally was followed by a short procession through the streets of D.C. by a small group of pro-life leaders, who laid roses outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building.


Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, told CNA on Friday that the gathering reflected the observance of other holidays during the pandemic-an event that "returned to the basics," one that was "somber, prayerful, reflective, socially-distant."

Daines founded the Senate Pro-Life Caucus in 2019. While the House has had a pro-life caucus since 1981, co-chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Daines told CNA he was "surprised" at the lack of a Senate caucus when he arrived in the chamber in 2015.


As caucus chair, Daines helped circulate a letter in July, 2019 asking President Trump and congressional leaders not to approve spending bills that had pro-abortion amendments.


Democrats had targeted must-pass government funding bills in attempts to increase abortion funding. Earlier in the summer, some House Democrats sought a last-minute repeal of the Hyde Amendment in an appropriations bill, and later in September, Democratic senators tried to permanently repeal abortion funding restrictions in appropriations bills.


The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of elective abortions, and has become law each year since 1976 as an attachment to appropriations bills.


Taxpayer funding of abortions is a top concern of pro-life groups in the new Congress. Democrats could use a COVID relief bill to create new funding streams for health care-such as funding for health clinics and subsidized health plans-that do not have prohibitions on the money going to fund abortions.


Daines said he will be circulating a letter to gather pledges by fellow senators to uphold the Hyde Amendment, which House Democratic leadership has promised to repeal.


He aims to find a "filibuster-proof" group of at least 41 senators who will promise not to support spending bills repealing the Hyde Amendment. Senate rules normally require 60 votes to end debate on a bill and bring it to a vote in the chamber.


"I'm not optimistic that we will find Democrats joining us. That doesn't mean we will not give up, but I'm not optimistic," Daines said.


However, senators have previously used the process of "reconciliation" to pass budget-related items with only a simple majority of votes. Daines admitted he is concerned that Democrats will try to use this process, needing only 50 votes plus the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to pass an appropriations bill without Hyde Amendment provisions.


Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden issued an order allowing for U.S. funding of international pro-abortion groups. Biden's presidential memorandum overturned the expanded Mexico City Policy, which bars U.S. funding of such groups in family planning funding and global health assistance.


"This is a result of Planned Parenthood spending millions of dollars to get President Biden elected, and now they're cashing in," Sen. Daines said.


When the Trump administration in 2017 had reinstated the bans on funding of pro-abortion groups, the International Planned Parenthood Federation withdrew from U.S. assistance rather than comply with the prohibitions on performing and promoting abortions.


"President Biden rewarded the abortion industry, and he's using taxpayer dollars to create a slush fund to line their pockets," Daines said.

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