ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 1500 (PN 1536) copies legislative efforts in several other states that target specific pregnancy conditions and populations of women. This bill amends the Pennsylvania crimes code to prohibit terminating a pregnancy based — in part — on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Any violation of this provision would constitute a third-degree felony and the outright revocation of a physician’s medical license.
HB 1500 is:
- Unconstitutional. Because genetic testing during pregnancy can occur as early as ten weeks of gestation, attempts to restrict abortion based on a Down syndrome diagnosis impose an undue burden on the well-established, constitutional right to abortion, in particular the right to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability.
- Dangerous: There are no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and includes no provision that would allow a pregnancy to be terminated even if it threatened the life of the woman. And if enacted, the threat of criminal prosecution may result in women deciding not to seek prenatal testing at all or worse, doctors may discourage prenatal testing for fear of being charged with a felony.
- Unresponsive. HB 1500 offers nothing to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities can and do live full, meaningful lives, but they often face unique obstacles. Instead of addressing those obstacles, this bill interferes with women’s legally protected medical decisions. It does not address the serious concerns of those with disabilities in our community. It does nothing to educate a woman and her family about having a child with a disability, including the difficulty to receive vital services due to the 5000+ people currently on the waitlist for persons with disabilities who are in need of emergency services.