Klunk reintroduces ban on Down syndrome-based abortions

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 is again fighting for legislation that would ban abortions on the basis of prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The Hanover Republican introduced the bill Monday, April 15. It now sits in the House Health Committee. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, has co-sponsored the legislation.

"A person shouldn’t be denied the chance to live simply because he or she may have a Down syndrome diagnosis," Klunk said. "No one is perfect, so we must stand with these perfectly imperfect individuals and support their right to live, their right to love and spread happiness in this world."

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Similar measures have been floated across the country, as pro-life proponents clash with pro-choice advocates who claim the idea chips away at abortion rights.

Under Pennsylvania law, a woman can get an abortion before 24 weeks for any reason as long as a physician deems it necessary — unless it's to select the child's sex. The proposed legislation would extend that exception to those diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he would veto the measure if it makes it to his desk, although Klunk said it's still necessary to "shine a light on the fact that babies who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are being killed at an alarming rate."

Turzai, who recently came under fire for comparing pro-choice advocates to the Nazi regime, proposed a similar measure last session. That passed the lower chamber 139-56 but was never voted out of committee in the state Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, along with other pro-choice advocates, railed against the measure then and are continuing to do so now, said ACLU senior policy advocate Julie Zaebst.

"This is just another way to push abortion out of the reach of Pennsylvanian women, and it does nothing to meaningfully support people with Down syndrome," Zaebst said.

The ACLU argues such legislation chills women's relationships with physicians and is unconstitutional. The organization has litigated similar bans in Indiana and Ohio.

Yet in Klunk's view, allowing women to get an abortion because of a Down syndrome diagnosis is discrimination, she said.

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