Bill which would ban abortion in cases of Down syndrome heard by House committee

03/09/2018 09:07 AM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would prohibit abortion if the fetus has or may have Down syndrome was heard by the House Standing Committee on Health and Family Services on Thursday but no vote was taken, as only Republican legislators attended the meeting.

House Bill 455, sponsored by Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, R-Greenville, would prohibit an abortion if the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion, in whole or in part, because of a test result indicating Down syndrome in an unborn child, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome in an unborn child, or any other reason to believe that the child has Down syndrome, except in the case of a medical emergency.

In addition, the bill would require physicians to certify a lack of knowledge that the pregnant’ s woman intent to seek an abortion was, in whole or in part, because of a test result indicating Down syndrome, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, or any other reason to believe the unborn child had Down syndrome.

It would also require the State Board of Medical Licensure to revoke a physician’s license to practice medicine if the physician violates the prohibition. Prunty told committee members that the bill is about protecting the rights of the disabled.

“House Bill 455 is an anti-discrimination, anti-human rights piece of legislation,” Prunty said.

ACLU Kentucky Advocacy Director Kate Miller spoke against the legislation saying that it is nothing more than taking away the rights of Kentucky women.

“This bill is about taking away the ability from Kentucky women to make personal, private, and also very complicated decisions for themselves,” Miller said. “Moreover, bills like House Bill 455 have been blocked in Indiana, and are currently not enforced in Louisiana because of pending litigation.”

Retired OBGYN Dr. Kenny Zegart also spoke against the legislation saying it is more about government interference in what should be a very personal decision.

“House Bill 455 takes away a Kentuckians ability to make a very personal private decision about pregnancy without government intrusion,” Zegart said. “This bill is about instilling fear in physicians and their patients.”

Joan Kofodimos, mother of a developmentally disabled daughter, testified against the legislation and chastised lawmakers for not fully funding programs to help the developmentally disabled.

“The bill, which claims to be in support of ethical human treatment, is contradictory to all of the policies that have taken place around Medicaid, among the cuts to public education, around the lack of funding for the SCL waiver, around the complete cutting off of all funding for the ARC,” Kofodimos said. “So, what that tells me is that if you’re not supporting the lives of people with disabilities who are born, who are living, then this bill is really about something else.”

Mark Leach, the father of a daughter with Down syndrome.

“To the ACLU, the arguments that they want to make sound in the right of privacy, which is found in the same amendment as the 14th Amendment, which also has another clause about equal protection under the law,” Leach said. “That is the issue that you did not hear addressed in the criticism of this bill.”

After discussion on the bill ended, committee chair Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence announced that a vote would not be taken so further exploration of the subject could take place.

“You’ve brought a bill that’s worthy of a vote today, but also worthy of more exploration,” Wuchner said.

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