Pennsylvania Politicians Divided Over Aborting the Disabled

Pennsylvania Politicians Divided Over Aborting the Disabled November 22, 2019

Pennsylvania State Capitol
Pennsylvania State Capitol (CC BY 2.0 Governor Tom Wolf )

In the past few days, it has been reported that the Pennsylvania House and Senate have both approved a bill to make abortion due to a Down Syndrome diagnosis illegal. However, the Governor, Tom Wolf vetoed the bill rather quickly. Thus, in Pennsylvania, you can still abort due to disability. I want to give the news then offer some analysis

The Down Syndrome Abortion Bill

On Wednesday, PennLive reported on the bill’s passage:

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would ban abortions based solely on a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome…

The Senate voted 27-22 to pass the bill, with Democratic Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny County, and Independent John Yudichak of Luzerne County, voting with 25 Republicans to pass the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kate Klunk, a Republican from Hanover, would make no changes to other portions of Pennsylvania’s abortion law, which allows abortions until week 24 of pregnancy for any reason other than the child’s sex.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill 117-76 in May.

After the vote Wolf said on Twitter that he would veto the bill. And both the House and Senate votes were well short of a veto-proof margin.

Then on Thursday, PennLive reported on the official veto.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor is vetoing a bill that would prohibit abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome…

The bill would have added to that prohibition abortions over a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome…

“Further, I am not aware of a single disability rights group that supports this bill,” [Governor Tom Wolf] continued. “I support continuing the bipartisan work that’s been done to help people with disabilities. I also believe there is much more Pennsylvania could do to help women and families facing complex pregnancies. However, this bill does not aid in either of these efforts.”

The Atrocity of Eugenic Abortion

Pope Francis has attacked this eugenic attitude before. I reported earlier on some of his words.

“I’ve heard that it’s fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first few months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let’s send it away,” the pope said June 16, referring to the trend of aborting sick or disabled children.

This, he said, is “the murder of children…to get a peaceful life an innocent [person] is sent away…We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”

This is a travesty, an atrocity, that a child can be slaughtered just because they are diagnosed with a medical condition. Secular society wants to end discrimination but allows this most horrific form.

Disability Rights Groups, Please Join Us

“First they came …” is a famous poem based on the confession of Martin Niemöller after World War II.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I fear that if those in the disability rights community don’t stand up to attacks on the disabled in the womb when their condition becomes diagnosable pre-natally, they will have no defense against having those with their condition aborted. This is not merely academic for me: I know prenatal autism tests are coming. Earlier, I wrote:

Abortion (and even euthanasia) is becoming more targeted toward the disabled. And this is the greatest way the disabled can be discriminated against. Killing someone due to a disability is akin to participating in an attempt to erase the disabled community. Not only is this far worse than, say, refusing to build a wheelchair ramp or to provide signage for the sight-impaired, it works toward removing the disabled community from society’s consciousness and thus makes it more difficult to build support for disabled rights…

When Jeff Sessions was nominated as U.S. attorney general in 2017, eight disability rights organizations signed a letter from more than 200 groups opposing his nomination, which is understandable given his record on disabilities. However, the same letter criticized Mr. Sessions for opposing “women’s access to reproductive health services” (understood to be a reference to access to abortion, especially given that the letter’s signatories included NARAL Pro-Choice America) and for voting to defund the abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

I want to encourage disability rights groups to reconsider their ardent support of abortion. Abortion will be used to destroy the lives of those with disabilities. We must fight that. Down Syndrome is first because it is easy to diagnose but genetic science will soon be able to diagnose or predict dozens of other conditions.

No politician should be able to say, “I am not aware of a single disability rights group that supports [a bill to stop the eugenic abortion of the disabled].” We, both in the pro-life movement and fighting for disability rights, need to change that.


Eugenics is always bad. Allowing abortion because of prenatal diagnosis is a form of eugenics and ableism. We need to fight this both for the intrinsic dignity of human life and the dignity of the disabled in particular. Abortion is ableist.

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