West Virginia senate passes pro-life measure to protect babies with disabilities

Down syndrome

West Virginia lawmakers recently passed a bill that would prevent children diagnosed with a disability in-utero from being targets for abortion. 

As The Associated Press reported, SB 468 passed through the Senate Finance Committee Thursday and is pending approval by the full state Senate. The bill, if passed, would require abortionists to submit a report and inform the state of each abortion committed due to “the presence or presumed presence of any disability in the unborn human being had been detected.”

The report must also disclose the date and method of the abortion and whether it occurred after the parents learned their child could be born with a disability. Patients’ names must be omitted, and abortionists must submit the report within 15 days of each abortion. The penalty for abortionists caught violating the law includes having their license to practice suspended or even revoked. 

While the legislation is titled “The Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act,” it would apply to other disabilities as well, making exceptions for conditions considered “incompatible with life outside the womb.” Lawmakers, however, had a heated debate over whether to include such exceptions, and an amendment originally including the exceptions was shot down. Then, the exceptions appeared in a later version of the bill presented by Senate Finance attorney Jeff Johnson without explanation.

READ: ‘A right to be informed’: West Virginia governor signs abortion pill reversal legislation

This did not quell opposition from Katie Quiñonez, the executive director at Women’s Health Care Center of West Virginia. The director claimed she has never heard of a woman considering abortion because of a Down syndrome or disability diagnosis, even though she also admitted the facility does not question women about the reasons for their abortions. 

“If this bill passes, it will force providers to interrogate their patient’s reasons for having an abortion,” she said. “It could force doctors to investigate their patients and will irreversibly harm the clinician-patient relationship. It could force patients to be in the position to lie to their physician — a person they should be able to be completely honest with because their health depends on it.”

Senator Mike Azinger, one of the bill’s sponsors, explained his reasoning for opposing the inclusion of exceptions — namely, that medical mistakes and misdiagnoses can be made. “I see on Facebook, these parents holding a baby that was supposedly going to have all kinds of problems at birth, maybe even not live, and they’re perfectly fine,” he said. “Or, the prognosis prior to birth was not nearly as bad as what it turned out to be.”

While doctors can be wrong in some adverse prenatal diagnosis cases, even when they’re right, babies diagnosed with life-limiting conditions are no less worthy of life and dignity than children considered healthy. An abortion in the case of a fetal anomaly still involves the death of an innocent human being who deserved to live and die naturally, just like someone diagnosed with cancer or another severe illness.

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