Bill on Down syndrome abortion ban moves up in Utah Senate

A bill seeking to ban Down syndrome abortion has progressed in the Utah Senate, and lawmakers will continue to debate the pros and cons of terminating a pregnancy if the fetus has tested positive for the lifelong condition.

(REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)Lawmakers in Utah will decide on banning abortion for Down syndrome cases in pregnant women.

Republican Rep. Karianne Lisonbee introduced HB 205 following a perceived increase in abortions among mothers in the Icelandic and European regions who have had prenatal tests that detected the genetic condition. She stated that she wants to prevent that scenario from happening in Utah.

Under Lisonbee's proposal, doctors who performed Down syndrome abortions solely on the diagnosis of the condition will be charged with a class A misdemeanor. Doctors must also refer the mother to a Down syndrome specialist and a support group for parents.

The exact numbers on Down syndrome abortions in Utah are not known, but a government report from 2015 revealed that of the 3,000 abortions that year, 40 cases had been about "malformation." In Utah, at least 83 babies are born yearly with genetic disorders like Down syndrome.

Pro-choice proponents, however, pointed out that Lisonbee's bill was unconstitutional and in violation of the 14th amendment. Among the questions and criticisms raised include the lack of details about funding and support for families with children with Down syndrome, as well as the erosion of the trust and relationship between a patient and a doctor.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Utah cited in its official statement that Lisonbee's bill was "a calculated and unconstitutional attack designed to burden women, scare doctors, and chip away at Roe v. Wade."

The Utah House passed HB 205 in February after the third reading. Senators, on the other hand, will still have to go over the proposal in its second reading.

Similar bills have already been passed in states like Ohio, Louisiana and North Dakota. Abortion providers, however, have challenged these bills in court and thus the bans have yet to take effect in some of these states.