WILKES-BARRE — House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Rep. Judy Ward, R-Blair, this week introduced House Bill 2050, which would prohibit the abortion of a child due solely to a diagnosis of possible Down syndrome.
This week Gerber introduced the world to Lucas Warren, who was selected as the 2018 Gerber baby. Lucas is a healthy 1-year-old from Dalton, Ga., who is full of spirit and potential. He also has Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a congenital, chromosome abnormality causing developmental delays and physical limitations impacting a child’s height and facial appearance. In recent years, celebrity support and public awareness about advances in support for families impacted by the condition have dramatically improved the life span and educational and work opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.
According to recent reports, at the turn of the 20th century a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome was not expected to live past their 10th birthday. In 2018, the life expectancy for an individual with Down syndrome has been extended to age 60 and beyond.
Under current law, a woman can obtain an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestational age for any reason, except if the woman’s sole reason is to select the sex of the child. House Bill 2050 will expand that exception to prohibit aborting a child due solely to a prenatal diagnosis that the unborn child has Down syndrome. The law would have no restrictions on a mother obtaining an abortion in cases of rape, incest or personal endangerment.
“We’re raising the concern in Pennsylvania because of some tragic trends in European countries. In Iceland, they’ve become notorious for the claim that Down syndrome has been nearly eliminated. What they fail to mention is that Iceland has a 100 percent abortion rate of pre-born children with this diagnosis,” Turzai said in a news release. “I believe in the dignity of every human being. None of us are born perfect, and we all have something beautiful to contribute. Pennsylvania is a loving, compassionate community, and we want to extend welcome and support to Down syndrome families. They need to know they’re not alone.”
Studies show that as many as nine out of 10 children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome are aborted in the United States, and mothers are being indirectly or directly pressured or advised to make this decision by genetic counselors and the culture.
“The future has never been brighter for babies born with Down syndrome,” said Rep. Ward. “Medical and social advances have changed what it means to live with this condition. Down syndrome means that opportunities exist in every area of school, community and even professional life. We’ve learned too much to accept that Down syndrome citizens should be considered anything less than full members of the community. They deserve respect and the protection of our laws.”
House Bill 2050 was introduced with the broad bipartisan support of more than 70 co-sponsors.
Four other states have taken steps to protect these children by passing laws prohibiting abortions because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.
AG DePasquale working to
eliminate rape kit backlog
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale this week continued his push to eliminate Pennsylvania’s backlog of 1,200 untested rape kits by asking Gov. Tom Wolf to include funding in the 2018-19 budget.
“At last count, 1,214 rape kits remained backlogged in Pennsylvania,” DePasquale said in a news release. “That’s potentially 1,200 people seeking results from the hours-long, invasive exam they endured.”
DePasquale said some of these kits date as far back as the 1990s.
“It is beyond unconscionable that these kits continue to sit on a shelf, denying victims a chance for healing and closure,” DePasquale said, noting that 13 other states have already provided funding to eliminate their backlogged rape kits.
But, DePasquale said, progress is being made.
“Since 2016, 700 backlogged kits were tested, meaning that 700 Pennsylvanians received answers about their rape kits,” he said. “Sexual assault victims deserve justice and testing the kits provides them a chance for justice.”
In September 2016, DePasquale released a special report on the state’s untested rape kits that found inadequate communication to local law enforcement agencies, errors in DOH’s official 2015 report and resource shortages that could be leading to delayed justice for victims. The 67-page special report featured three observations and 10 recommendations.
“When the General Assembly passed the legislation that mandated the reporting and testing of the state’s backlogged rape kits, it failed to provide any resources to any agency, including the state’s three major public crime labs, to test the kits,” DePasquale said. “My review found that these crime labs simply do not have enough people, equipment or funding — and that’s a problem that continues to exist.”
DEP and PennDOT earn national
recognition for cleanup campaign
PennDOT and the Department of Environmental Protection have been honored with Keep America Beautiful 2018 State Agency Partner Awards for their partnership on the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania in 2017.
The statewide campaign organized more than 132,000 volunteers who participated in over 7,200 local cleanup events in every county.
“DEP has supported and participated in the annual Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania program since it began in 2004,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It reflects two of our core values — improving the environment and fostering strong community partnerships — and it succeeds.”
PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards said PennDOT is very proud of the long-running success of the Adopt-A-Highway program.
“The efforts of our district coordinators coupled with the enthusiasm of our volunteers results in tons of trash and debris being removed from our roadways year after year,” Richards said in a news release.
The Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania is coordinated by KAB affiliate Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful with support from DEP and PennDOT. Last year, the campaign brought thousands of Pennsylvanians together in the spring to collect millions of pounds of trash and plant trees, shrubs, and flowers.
In 2017, through PennDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program, more than 4,800 volunteer groups adopted 10,733 miles, collectively saving the commonwealth in excess of $5 million.
DEP funding covered the cost of supplies for the participating volunteers, who collected more than 5 million pounds of trash from an estimated 11,168 miles of roads, railroad tracks, trails, waterways, and shorelines and planted 16,437 trees, bulbs, and plants.
“The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation have been invaluable partners to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful since its inception, providing resources that have enabled hundreds of thousands of volunteers to participate in tens of thousands of community improvement events,” said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.
The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, and numerous companies also support cleanup projects.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.