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Down-syndrome abortion ban OK'd

With 75-11 approval in House, restriction advances to Hutchinson’s desk by Hunter Field | March 28, 2019 at 3:21 a.m. | Updated March 28, 2019 at 3:21 a.m.
Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, is shown in this file photo.

The Arkansas House passed legislation Wednesday that would outlaw abortions based solely on the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Representatives voted 75-11 to approve Senate Bill 2, by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, which would require a doctor to ask a woman seeking an abortion if she is aware of any test results, prenatal diagnosis or any other reason that the unborn child may have Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental challenges and abnormal physical features.

The bill includes exemptions for cases of rape or incest or a medical emergency.

Doctors, under SB2, would be precluded from performing abortions if they determine a pregnant women is seeking the procedure strictly because she believes the unborn child has Down syndrome.

Speaking for the bill, Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, encouraged her colleagues to keep in mind those with genetic disorders as they vote on other measures, noting that SB2 would result in more children being born with birth defects.

"We need to make it a priority to help these children, and their families," she said.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Garner's bill would require doctors to inform pregnant women that abortions performed strictly because of a Down syndrome diagnosis would be illegal. Doctors also would be required to request a woman's medical history if she acknowledges that she is aware of such a diagnosis before an abortion.

A doctor who attempts or goes ahead with the abortion would have his medical license revoked and would be guilty of a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to six years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

A federal judge blocked a similar Ohio law earlier this year in a ruling that is being appealed.

Down syndrome is typically diagnosed by blood tests and ultrasound during the first or second trimester of pregnancy. It is caused when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21, according to the National Down Syndrome Society website.

Abortion-rights advocates have opposed SB2, saying politicians shouldn't meddle in the personal lives of pregnant women.

The House on Wednesday also passed Senate Bill 3 by Garner that would require additional reporting on abortion complications in Arkansas.

The bill would require abortion providers to report a variety of data about abortions that result in complications, but the data couldn't be used to identify a patient or doctor.

The Arkansas Department of Health would be required to compile a yearly report on the data, under the bill.

Both bills now head to Gov. Asa Hutchinson to be signed into law.

A Section on 03/28/2019

Print Headline: Down-syndrome abortion ban OK'd

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