Following what has become a disturbing pattern, the Republican-led Pennsylvania Legislature recently approved legislation that bans a woman from obtaining an abortion solely based on a determination that the fetus is diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
The vote on the bill (HB2050) sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, not only came without public hearings or any degree of transparency, it was also an unconstitutional infringement on a woman’s right to abortion.
Despite previous federal court rulings that such legislation was, in fact, unconstitutional, the Republican majority acted without any hearings on this issue, as it had also recently done in voting on a state Senate bill which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks.
Like then, that legislation was opposed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the largest national group of doctors that specialize in and are sought out by pregnant women to provide medical counsel throughout their pregnancies.
Yet neither women nor this informed medical community were allowed the opportunity to offer their experience or expertise to the discussion.
And it is this blatant disregard for prioritizing a woman’s voice and choice in these most personal of decisions that is at the core of the problem. Every pregnancy, every family, every woman… there are extenuating circumstances and variables to be considered that ultimately make every decision unique.
And only one person should have the power to make the final call in that decision: the mother. From concerns about unforeseen medical complications to the question of who might care for that child should the parents pass; these are all private decisions that should not be legislated.
And in making this about the so-called protection of individuals with Down Syndrome, the House majority is only politicizing what is already a very difficult, deeply personal issue.
The question is this: if Republicans care so much about the lives of those with Down Syndrome and their families; where is their advocacy for increases to health, educational, and vocational programs for individuals with developmental disabilities?
Where is the support for these lives when pushing for further cuts in Medicare funding, for which a large majority serves the disabled community and their children?
Only a scant few of these same Republicans have also supported workplace accommodation bills that have been stalled in the House Labor and Industry Committee since last summer.
Instead, they are using this as a wedge issue in an attempt to further divide pro-life and pro-choice individuals.
Unfortunately, this habit of having no hearings on critical matters is a symptom of a larger problem, as evidenced by the long history of a GOP-dominated State House passing judgment without due process.
From the 2012 bill that drastically increased the power of law enforcement to conduct surveillance, to the 2016 bill that recommended doctors be given more freedom to prescribe opioids; our State House’s rush to judgment and failure to hold critical public hearings has resulted in disastrous and often lasting results.
None of these are black and white issues and the Turzai bill is no exception.
There are relevant and reasoned concerns on both sides of this issue that should be discussed. But unfortunately that opportunity for democratic process was stolen by a Republican-led House; flouting the need for critical discourse and ensuring the true will of the people will never be known.
Until we can break the paralyzing gridlock that exists in our dysfunctional legislature, things are likely to get worse before they get better.
And I can assure you that, as State Representative, I will work tirelessly to reverse this troubling trend–whether the legislation in question is something I favor or that which I oppose.
Daryl Boling is the Democratic Party endorsed candidate for Pennsylvania State House in the 152nd District.