State House passes Klunk's Down syndrome abortion ban

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Rep. Kate Klunk, of the 169th House District, speaks during the Legislative Panel Discussion on the State Budget as the York County Economic Alliance hosts its Spring Legislative Luncheon at Wyndham Garden York in West Manchester Township, Thursday, May 17, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

State Rep. Kate Klunk's legislation that would ban abortions on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis cleared the House on Tuesday and is headed to the Senate.

The Hanover Republican's bill made it through the lower chamber with a 117-76 vote, although Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto the legislation if it clears the upper chamber.

"A baby who has received a Down syndrome diagnosis in the womb has a right to life and should not be discriminated against because they have an extra chromosome," Klunk said on the House floor Tuesday.

More:Pennsylvania House tries anew to ban Down syndrome abortions

More:Klunk reintroduces ban on Down syndrome-based abortions

Without citing a source, Klunk said between 67% and 90% of babies who are believed to have Down Syndrome or are diagnosed as such are aborted.

While the bill wouldn't penalize women who receive abortions based on the diagnosis, it would impose a felony on physicians who perform the procedure.

A majority of House Republicans backed Klunk's bill, including Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-Dillsburg, who accused pro-choice politicians of not truly caring about all women.

"I continuously hear the question, 'What about women's rights?' which begs the question, 'What about the rights of all the pre-born women?' Do the rights of these pre-born women count?"

The legislation did garner some support from House Democrats. Most, however, have continuously argued that abortion access is a fundamental right. 

Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, went further, citing the opinions from lawyers at the Legislative Research Bureau who concluded the bill is unconstitutional, WITF reported.

The lawyers said that under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a state "may not prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion before the unborn child has reached viability."

The state also can't "impose an undue burden upon a woman's ability to obtain a pre-viability abortion," the ruling continued.

With Klunk's bill, the ruling applies because it doesn't differentiate between abortions performed pre- and post-viability, the state lawyers determined. The bureau also noted it would most likely be stricken down by courts even if Wolf signed it.

House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, disagreed, claiming the legislation would be consistent with state law that bans abortions on the basis of sex selection that lies in the state Abortion Control Act. 

Last session, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, proposed identical legislation to Klunk's.

That passed the House more easily, with a 139-57 vote, before a new crop of Democrats won and flipped seats in last year's midterm elections. That bill languished in committee in the Senate.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.