Politics

West Virginia Senate Health Committee approves bill prohibiting abortion tied to down syndrome 

A split West Virginia Senate Health Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 468, which is the Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act.

That act, which was approved by a committee substitute version of the bill, forbids performing an abortion on a child with a disability, including Down Syndrome, except in the case of a medical emergency.

Any physician found to be violating the law by performing the abortion would be subjected to a professional board discipline. A provision in the bill that was amended out would have made violating the law a felony.

The term disability is spelled out as: “A genetic, physical, emotional, or intellectual disability or diagnosis in the unborn human being including, but not limited to, chromosomal disorders or morphological malformations occurring as the result of atypical gene expressions.”

David Jude, a Huntington, West Virginia obstetrician and gynecologist gave testimony in opposition of the bill, taking issue with how the measure interferes in the ability to choose. “We just think it’s kind of inhumane to force someone to carry a pregnancy that they know is not going to result in a child that’s going to live or have a chance of surviving,” he said.

A mother, Emily Black, also testified, detailing her and her husband’s struggle to conceive. After undergoing fertility treatments, the couple found out at the 18-week scan that the baby had no kidneys or bladder, had a hole in her heart, and severe scoliosis. Black underwent labor to deliver at 20 weeks. 

Following that testimony, Sen. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, offered an amendment to strike a determination of incompatible with life outside the womb from the language of the bill.

Majority Leader, and one of the three physicians on the committee, Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, supported the amendment, noting the devastating effects of carrying a child that might not survive to term.

“To force that individual, knowing, through the course of a pregnancy, it’s just not right.” The bill, approved with that amendment and a few others, passed the committee and is now headed to Finance for a review of an accompanying fiscal note.

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: DESERET.COM

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