February 27, 2015

Bill to ban abortion for gender selection, disabled babies advances

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A view of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

Legislation that seeks to ban abortion in Indiana when it is sought for gender selection or a genetically disabled unborn child passed in the Senate by a 40-10 vote on Feb. 24. The bill now moves to the Indiana House for consideration.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, said in support of Senate Bill 334, “We believe that public policy ought to protect all human beings from conception to natural death. It is in the best interest of society to protect its weakest members, including the physically handicapped, those with mental illness, all children and especially the defenseless infant in the womb.

“Abortion of all babies is unacceptable,” added Tebbe. “Aborting a child because of his or her sex or handicapped condition is another illustration of people playing God, wanting to control one’s life by determining the perfect child. All children are gifts from God, given for benefit of the family and the good of all in society. Public policy should promote and support the growth and development of all children.”

The measure is authored by three lawmakers, including Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle; Sen. Amanda Banks, R-Columbia City; and Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

Brown presented the bill to the Senate Health panel. She said that in addition to aborting for reasons of sex selection or disability, the bill also addresses informed consent. Women seeking an abortion would be notified in writing 18 hours prior to the abortion being performed that Indiana law prohibits abortion solely for sex selection and fetal disability. It also applies to the termination of pregnancy form that the doctors must complete after each abortion. The bill proposes that doctors note on the form if the aborted child was diagnosed with or has a potential diagnosis of a disability.

Brown noted that a large majority of obstetricians and gynecologists believe abortion is justified in many cases. She later noted that 25 percent of mothers whose unborn children were diagnosed with Down syndrome reported the doctor insisted they abort and felt pressured into doing so.

“I think what we are seeing today is a rush to judgment,” said Brown. “Instead of looking at the value these parents have in making a choice, we have positions, and abortion providers in particular are pushing this ‘choice’ on women which in fact does not become a choice because they are not given all the facts. They are not making an informed choice.”

Citing Harvard professor Dr. Amartya Sen’s book, More than 100 Million Women are Missing, Brown said that there is a 60 percent reduction of women being born because they are not valued.

“Here in the United States, we do not subscribe to that judgment because gender and disability are protected classes. In this bill, we are saying that women and the disabled are protected classes from conception to the end of natural life,” Brown said. “What this bill does is codifies in law that these are constitutionally protected classes, and that if you have been labeled a potentially disabled child and or a woman should not be the inducement for a parent to abort you.”

Sen. Vanetta Becker, R-Evansville, questioned if legislators who support the bill were also willing to provide more state support for developmentally disabled people. “Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?” Becker asked.

In response, Holdman said, “I believe we get to a slippery slope when we begin to evaluate a child in economic terms only. We’ve seen that in fascist countries.

“In our public policy, we want to say we value life over an economic choice. If we abort a child because of Down syndrome merely on the fact that it is going to cost somebody a lot of money, it’s a slippery slope.”

He added, “We want to be very careful in approaching that kind of public policy position.”

Holdman said he “absolutely would be in favor of additional funding” if it’s required to support children with a disability. “We need to have a policy of life rather than a policy of extermination.”

Dr. David Prentice, a stem-cell expert, testified in support of the bill. He called it a bill about “preventing discrimination based on gender or genetic differences on preborn human beings.”

He added that while abortion for sex selection does occur in the U.S., there aren’t very good records. He said there are new studies coming out showing sex selection abortions are taking place in the U.S. and Canada.

As more advanced testing becomes available providing earlier results for sex and genetic defects, Prentice said more sex selection abortions will occur. While some medical advancement will be used as a reason to justify an abortion, he said new treatments are being developed to correct some genetic defects in the womb including the use of adult stem cells.

(For more information about the Indiana Catholic Conference, its Indiana Catholic Action Network and the bills it is following in the Indiana General Assembly this year, log on to www.indianacc.org. Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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