Pa. Catholic conference: Gov. Wolf failed to protect 'humanity's most vulnerable lives' with Down syndrome abortion veto

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf speaks at a rally against pro life legislation in Conshohocken Dec 11 2017 Credit Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr CC BY 20 CNA Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf speaks at a rally against pro-life legislation in Conshohocken, Dec. 11, 2017. | Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf this week vetoed a bill that would have banned the abortion of children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. The state Catholic conference condemned the decision. 

"Gov. Wolf's veto will prevent all children with Down's syndrome from going on to live happy and fulfilled lives," executive director Eric Failing said in a Nov. 21 statement.

"Had Gov. Wolf signed this legislation, he would've ensured the protection of humanity's most vulnerable lives," he said in Nov. 21 statement.

Wolf vetoed the bill on Thursday, stating that the legislation would have hindered the medical decisions between a woman and her doctor.

"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 in an online statement.

"Physicians and their patients must be able to make choices about medical procedures based on best practices and standards of care," he further added.

Under the current Pennsylvania law, abortion is permissible for any reason, besides gender selection, until the 24th week of pregnancy. If the bill passed this week had been signed into law, it would have prohibited abortions chosen after a diagnosis of Down syndrome, except in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies.

Even though the bill was vetoed, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference applauded the efforts of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who supported the effort.

The bill had passed through the Pennsylvania Senate, 27-22, on Wednesday. It passed through the state's House of Representatives 117-76, in May.

"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," Failing said.

Up to 75% of babies diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome in the U.S. have been aborted in recent decades, according to research conducted between 1995 and 2011.

Opponents of the bill have claimed the legislation would violate women's reproductive rights.

According to Penn Live, Sen. Maria Collett said the bill would not help people with disabilities. She said legislators should instead focus on laws that benefit the caregivers and those already born with disabilities.

"This bill does nothing to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome," said Collett. "Instead, it uses them to advance a political agenda."

Sen. Scott Martin disagreed, saying abortion of children diagnosed with Down syndrome is "not health care" but an act of "eugenics."

"These are parents who actually want to have children, who are presented as if this child will actually be a burden, who cannot live a productive life. ... These children have the ability to live long, productive lives, even past the age of 60," he said, during floor debate on the bill.

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