N Carolina GOP advances bill to ban Down Syndrome abortion


RALEIGH, NC (AP) – North Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill to make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions because of the race of the fetus or prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

A doctor would be subject to financial damages if he or she performed an abortion despite being aware that the pregnant woman’s decision to obtain the procedure was influenced by either of these two concerns.

A handful of states have passed similar laws on diagnoses of Down syndrome and have been caught up in legal battles after their passage. Last month, a federal court of appeals narrowly ruled to reverse two previous decisions blocking the implementation of an 2017 Ohio law. A federal court of appeals ruled in November that Tennessee could begin outlawing abortions due to a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

The North Carolina House Health Committee approved the Republican-backed measure and sent it to the judicial committee, where it is scheduled to be considered Wednesday. If approved, it would move to one more committee before paving the way for voting on the floor. A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposal.

“We don’t want to be the kind of society that not only discriminates, but eliminates children by the way they are raised,” said state Rep. Dean Arp, a Union County Republican who primarily sponsors Bill 453 of the Chamber. “The citizens of North Carolina don’t want to be that kind of society either.”

Proponents of the laws claim that procedures performed on the basis of race or Down syndrome amount to “discriminatory eugenic abortion.” In 2013, the legislature passed a law banning sex-selective abortions, which were based on whether the fetus is male or female.

State Rep. Verla Insko, an Orange County Democrat, believes the proposal jeopardizes women’s right to abortion and would create another unjust obstacle.

“I find this bill discriminatory for pregnant women,” Insko said. “I can’t imagine anything more threatening than making someone take control of my body. I’d much rather we pushed. Birth control. “

The measure advanced on Tuesday by about 45 minutes, with debate or limited debate. Some members of the public who wanted to express their opposition did not have the opportunity to speak, although speakers from both sides of the debate had the same time.

Julie Scott Emmons, a representative of the conservative NC Values ​​Coalition, amplified the voices of parents who were happy with her decision to give birth to a child with Down syndrome and accepted the proposal.

“This bill is not a scam,” Emmons said. “It actually places protection against a whole class of human beings who would not have to pass a genetic test to earn the right to be born.”

Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, approximately one in 700 babies in the United States (approximately 6,000 per year) is born with the disease, which results from a chromosomal irregularity.

The North Carolina Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposes the proposal, arguing that it should be left to the people, not the state government, to decide what to do with information from prenatal fetal diagnoses.

Dr. Jonas Swartz, a stubborn gynecologist and a member of Duke University faculty, told lawmakers he is concerned that the bill could reduce patients ‘trust in the medical community and hinder doctors’ communication with those seeking it. their experience.

“I want to provide safe, non-judgmental, high-quality care,” Swartz said. “This bill would make open and honest conversations with my patients difficult.”

Associated Press writer Gary D. Robertson contributed to the Raleigh reports.

Bryan Anderson is a member of the body of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on covert issues. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BryanRAnderson.

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