OP-ED: They are lives truly worth living

State Rep. Kate Klunk
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

I was disheartened to read The York Dispatch editorial “Chipping away at women's rights.” It was filled with baseless attacks on my Down Syndrome Protection Act and unjust comparisons to the recently enacted pro-life laws in Alabama and North Dakota. In some cases, the facts in the editorial were liberally stretched to fit the narrative the writer intended.

Unlike the North Dakota law referenced in the editorial, my legislation, House Bill 321, solely addresses abortions that occur as a result of a prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome. The North Dakota law included various genetic abnormalities, including Down syndrome. Again, my bill only addresses Down syndrome.

In Pennsylvania, an abortion can be legally obtained up to 24 weeks. There is, however, one exception. A baby can’t be aborted because of his or her gender. This clause is part of the law and protects babies from being aborted simply because they aren’t the desired gender. I can’t think of any good reason why a baby boy should be given the opportunity to live when a baby girl is not given the exact same chance, or vice versa.

What my bill does is simple. It merely adds that a baby can’t be selected for abortion because he or she has a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. This is not an ice pick chipping away at women’s rights. This is affording babies who happen to have an extra chromosome a chance at life.

More:State House passes Klunk's Down syndrome abortion ban

More:EDITORIAL: Chipping away at women's rights

My bill also protects women. Nothing in the bill would interfere with the existing ability of a woman to obtain an abortion in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the mother, which is in stark contrast to the Alabama bill the article attempted to compare my bill to. I made sure this provision was included in my bill, even though it is contained in different sections of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act.

Passage of my bill was not an attempt to display, as stated in the editorial, my “mean-spirited, unnecessary pronouncement of her own conservative credentials.” This bill is about giving those who have been targeted for abortion and discriminated in the womb the same chance at life that was given to you and me.

The article also failed to mention that babies with Down syndrome are being aborted at an alarming rate around the world. We have seen the news stories where Iceland claims it has “cured” and all but “eradicated” Down syndrome through abortion. In the UK, the abortion rate for Down syndrome pregnancies is as high as 90%. Now, we all know there is no “cure” for Down syndrome. There is no medicine to take to “eradicate” this genetic condition as the news reports allude to. There is only one medical procedure that can “eradicate” those individuals with Down syndrome from existence and that is an abortion.

In this country, people with Down syndrome lead full and productive lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93% of babies born with Down syndrome live to their first birthday and 88% live to their 20s. In fact, the life expectancy of those with Down syndrome isn’t far off from someone without Down syndrome. The life expectancy for someone with Down syndrome has gone from 10 years of age in 1960 to well over 60 years of age today.

Yes, Gov. Tom Wolf has stated he’d veto this bill, and any like it, should it reach his desk. Earlier this year, he declared March as Developmental Disabilities Month. I commend this effort to raise awareness. In his proclamation, Wolf says, “people with a developmental disability are of all racial, ethnic, educational, social, and economic backgrounds, and all are valued members of society who find fulfillment living everyday lives.”

However, I must question the governor’s commitment to these people, the people he represents, if he were to veto this bill. How can someone issue such a proclamation and then say he won’t defend their right to live?

Throughout my life, I have met numerous people with Down syndrome. They are the kindest, sweetest and most caring people I have ever met. I cannot for the life of me think of a reason why they should not be given the same shot at life that I was granted.

We need to listen carefully to our brothers and sisters with Down syndrome. They are saying to us: “Just because I look a little different than you, talk a little different than you, think a little different than you, does not mean I am not human like you. Please protect me. Please show me that I can live in a fair and loving world. Please let me show you I am a life worth saving.”