Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Hello, all. And welcome to the inaugural monthly edition of the “Legislating and Litigating Life” blog. The goal of this blog is to provide an informative overview and legal analysis of the current and prospective laws and court cases involving abortion at the local, state and national level. And we have a lot of content to sift through now and in the coming year, culminating in the big case (Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) before the Supreme Court that has a realistic chance to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But before we dive into the legal landscape, I’d like to provide a disclaimer.
Often times, I believe the Pro Life movement over-emphasizes the importance of abortion legislation and litigation. That may sound a bit contradictory coming from an attorney. But I wholly believe that. Our collective goal is not to overturn Roe. It is not even to make abortion illegal. It is to make abortion unthinkable. The ultimate goal of the Pro-Life movement is not to just change the abortion laws in this country and the world, but to change the culture. The legislative and legal landscape is one small tool we in the Pro Life movement can utilize to help achieve that noble goal. And ultimately, we change the culture by changing the hearts and minds of all in society through love, charity and compassion. We do that through local grassroots efforts like what we do right here at the Pro Life Union, by offering a helping hand to a mother in need, by volunteering at the local crisis pregnancy center, and through prayer.
Now, for the first report in the first Legislating and Litigating Life blog, we are going to analyze a PA state bill that is moving through legislation. I’m choosing to highlight a state bill over Dobbs or another national topic to emphasis the importance of the local landscape. I understand the attractiveness in covering Roe and national politics. But that is not where the most influential change takes place. And that is especially not where you and I can be more effective to achieve such change. For that reason, we must be acutely aware of what is going on in our state and local political landscape.
On June 8th, the PA State House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill #1500 by a count of 120-83. This bill would ban abortions prompted by a Down Syndrome diagnosis. Adding to the good news, this bill was passed in the House on a bipartisan vote, with 10 democrats voting in favor of the ban against Down Syndrome influenced abortions (3 republicans voted against it). This is the 3rd time since 2018 that a bill preventing the termination of a fetus with Down Syndrome has passed the PA House. In 2018, the bill wasn’t taken up by the senate. In 2019, a similar bill made it through both chambers only to be vetoed by Governor Wolf.
We understand the sadness surrounding an abortion and the termination of an innocent unborn baby. But there is something increasingly heart wrenching when an abortion occurs in a discriminatory manner against a baby with a developmental disorder such as Down Syndrome. Our society is paradoxically the most and least well suited to care for someone with Down Syndrome. Better healthcare has more than doubled the life expectancy of a human with Down Syndrome. Anti-discrimination laws afford children with Down Syndrome to get a good education, and adults with Down Syndrome to acquire and maintain gainful employment. The ability for someone with Down Syndrome to have a long and happy life has never been better.
Yet these anti-discrimination laws only protect humans with Down Syndrome outside the womb. Studies show that up to 67% of prenatal Down Syndrome diagnoses in the United States end in an abortion. Our society correctly tells us that no human has more inherent value than another, that discrimination is wrong, and that those with disabilities are worthy of love and a quality life.
But unfortunately, we are eugenically eliminating the majority of a very unique subsect of our population. There is a moral and logical fallacy between appropriately establishing a landscape that legally protects people with Down Syndrome, while at the same time saying a Down Syndrome diagnosis warrants terminating that precious, innocent life in the womb. To look at it another way, what is our society telling our neighbors with Down Syndrome when we advocate for laws allowing the termination of an unborn child solely because they have that same diagnosis? How do we think that makes them feel? Certainly not loved and valued. We must live up to those anti-discriminatory compassionate beliefs by codifying laws that protect the unborn with disabilities.
While the bill is expected to also be approved in the state Senate, Governor Wolf has vowed to veto it once again, preventing the bill from becoming law. And the bill is improbable to garner enough support to achieve the 2/3rds threshold required to override a governor’s veto. So what can we do? We can call our local legislatures to emphasis our support for protecting the unborn with Down Syndrome. The Senate will likely be voting on this bill this summer, so the more they hear about our support, the better. We can ask our neighbors, relatives and friends to do the same. We can educate our communities of the happiness, love and value those with Down Syndrome bring to life. And most importantly, we can help those diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and their families, live the best life they can, further establishing a loving and charitable culture for all.
Thank you, and God bless.