If it becomes just a so-called “message bill,” consider that it says the people of Utah see children with Down syndrome as having the same sacred value as any other human life.
Flowers was defending an Ohio law that seeks to put an end to elective abortions that happen because a mother finds out the baby she is carrying likely has Down. Ohio would punish a doctor who knows the woman’s decision is based partly on such a diagnosis but proceeds anyway.
Indiana has a similar law. So does North Dakota and Louisiana.
Utah could be next. For the second year in a row, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, are sponsoring a bill that would do the same, only with a few twists. HB166 would outlaw abortions performed when the mother’s sole reason for wanting one was because the baby may have Down syndrome, but the bill specifies that this would take effect only when a court of binding authority rules that a law one those other states passed is constitutional.
In the meantime, the bill would require that mothers receive information from organizations that advocate for parents with the syndrome before receiving an abortion.
Supporters of the bill argue that parents currently are left with only their fears, and perhaps doctors urging them to abort, when confronted with such a diagnosis. That may be why the vast majority, somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent, choose to abort.
Last year’s version of the bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. Late Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted xx-xx to send HB166 to the floor of the House with a favorable recommendation, the first step toward maybe putting it into law.
Despite a crippling snowstorm, Wednesday’s hearing was filled with parents of Down syndrome children anxious to share the joys and valuable life lessons they associate with such children.
(stories from the hearing)
Perhaps none of these was as powerful as what Frank Stephens, a man with Down syndrome, told a congressional hearing in 2017.
“Some people say prenatal screens will identify Down syndrome in the womb and those pregnancies will just be terminated,” he said. “It’s hard for me to sit here and say those words.
“I completely understand that the people pushing this particular ‘final solution’ are saying that people like me should not exist. That final view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome. Seriously, I have a great life!”
A few European countries have boasted that, because of early diagnoses and abortions, they have virtually eradicated Down syndrome, which is quite different from finding a cure or treatment.
Some say HB166 would be nothing more than a message bill, given that courts may never overturn those other laws. That may be true, but allowing fetuses with Down syndrome to be aborted sends a message, as well — one that forces us to come face to face with Stephens and many other happily functioning and contributing human beings.