Doctors who violate the restriction by attempting to abort children because of their Down syndrome diagnosis would be charged with a fourth-degree felony, and the state medical board will be required to revoke their license. They would also be held accountable for legal fees and charges.
Down syndrome, or trisomy-21, is a common genetic disorder, caused when a child's DNA contains an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. It affects roughly one in 700 babies born in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The condition can result in intellectual and physical delays and disabilities, and can result in increased risks of congenital heart defects, thyroid conditions, childhood leukemia and Alzheimer's disease. Thanks to improved healthcare treatments and educational approaches, children born with Down syndrome now have a life expectancy of around 60 years, and more options for employment and independent living are available to them.
According to a 2012 study on termination rates of people with Down syndrome, around 75 percent of expectant mothers whose babies have a confirmed prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis terminate the pregnancy. Roughly 5 percent of women receive the most sensitive and invasive Down syndrome test, but other, less invasive testing methods have improved their accuracy and broadened the number of women receiving some form of Down syndrome testing.
According to research coordinated by Massachusetts General Hospital, voluntary termination has contributed to a drop somewhere between 26 and 52 percent in the number of babies expected to be born with Down syndrome.
It is still unclear which prenatal tests the bill will consider to be proof of a Down syndrome diagnosis, or how this bill will impact prenatal testing in the state more broadly.