The Utah Legislature has been known to look for solutions to problems that don’t exist. With H.B. 205, it has done it again.
This bill, sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, prohibits doctors from performing abortions that are based “solely” on a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Last August CBS published a report on the shockingly low number of Down syndrome births in Iceland and other European countries. CBS’s report was controversial because it claimed Iceland was “close to eradicating Down syndrome births.” In fact, Iceland was not “eradicating” Down syndrome by cure or medicine, but by prenatal testing and abortion. As CBS reported, “the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.”
But as Luke Ramseth reported for The Salt Lake Tribune, “data suggest few Utah women seek an abortion for a Down syndrome diagnosis in the first place.”
In fact, Lisonbee’s bill is a message bill: “Utah’s message to the world that we will not tolerate discrimination.”
At least not that type of discrimination.
Message bills should be resolutions that communicate ideas and policies the Legislature feels strongly about, not actual statutes that will almost certainly be challenged in court.
Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, is caused by an extra copy of the number 21 chromosome. Individuals with Down syndrome experience developmental delay, have some common facial features and suffer from moderate intellectual disability.
What about other diagnoses that similarly forecast delayed development? Are babies with Trisomy 16 or Trisomy 18 not as important? What about spina bifida or autism? Don’t those babies deserve protection from discrimination, too?
Even more absurd is that the bill criminalizes the doctor for performing the procedure.
The bill inserts legislative pandering into the relationship between a doctor and patient.
How would the state even know that the woman made her decision “solely” on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis? Would this bill cause doctors to stop suggesting prenatal testing, because if there is no diagnosis there can be no criminality? Does it require doctors to ask why a patient chooses an abortion, and isn’t that a violation of privacy?
The bill has passed in the House and awaits a vote on the Senate floor. If the Senate just can’t help itself from doing the wrong thing for the right reason, hopefully Gov. Gary Herbert will set them straight and veto the measure.