Utah bill seeking to ban Down syndrome abortions struggles in Senate

(Reuters/Damir Sagolj)Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province August 3, 2014.

Pro-life lawmakers in the Utah Senate are struggling to advance a legislation that seeks to ban abortion on unborn babies with Down Syndrome.

House Bill 205, the Down Syndrome Nondiscrimination Abortion Act, was approved by a state Senate committee on Feb. 26 by a 3–2 vote, but it hit a wall in full Senate on Thursday due to concerns about constitutionality.

The measure, which passed the state House by a vote of 54–17 on Feb. 5, would prohibit abortions on unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome and requires doctors to provide pregnant women with certain information to women carrying a child with the genetic condition.

"Anybody who knows a person with Down Syndrome knows they are just--they spread joy, they spread love and happiness. And, they are always ready with smiles and hugs. The world would be a very different, and a very sad place without them," said bill sponsor Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, according to Good4Utah.com.

Mariana Lowe with the ACLU noted that similar bills have been struck down as unconstitutional in other states and expressed her belief that the measure would suffer the same fate in Utah.

If the bill is signed into law, Utah would become the fourth state to ban Down syndrome abortions, joining Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota.

Lisonbee has included an amendment to delay implementation of the bill until courts issue their decisions on similar laws in Ohio and Indiana. The amendment has not changed the stance of the Senate, but Lisonbee said that she will work to get more votes in the hopes that the bill would make it through on the last day of the Legislative Session.

The pro-life lawmaker said that her main motivation for introducing the bill was the 2017 report indicating that almost 100 percent of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in Iceland.

"Looking at history, I have to ask, if we don't take a stand from the start against the selective purging of one portion of our society, will we continue our silence when the next undesirable segment is purged, and the next?" Lisonbee said, according to Life Site News.

William Duncan, who serves as the director of the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute, contended that HB205 has been written specifically to pass the constitutionality test.

"The Legislature can't allow advocacy groups to have a heckler's veto over what the state law is by saying, 'Well, if you pass that law, we'll sue,'" he said, adding that the Utah Legislature "knows how to do the right thing" without worrying about how others will react.

In 2015, a total of 3,000 abortions were performed in Utah and at least 40 pregnancies were terminated due to a prenatal diagnosis of some condition like Down syndrome, according to Utah government records.

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