RALEIGH, N.C. — Opponents of abortion have a new target this legislative session: Parents who abort pregnancies because test results show their baby will likely have Down syndrome.
House Bill 453 addresses what it calls “eugenic abortions,” banning abortions in cases in which the parents are seeking the procedure because of the race, gender or Down syndrome status of the fetus.
The conservative N.C. Values Coalition is backing the measure and held a news conference Wednesday featuring families of people with Down syndrome.
“It’s time to face the issue head-on and ensure that every little North Carolinian is protected from discrimination before and after birth,” said the bill’s sponsor, GOP Rep. Pat McElraft.
Melinda Dalahoyde, who spoke at the news conference with her adult son Will, who has Down syndrome and works at a Whole Foods, said the opportunities for people with Down syndrome have improved dramatically since the days when many of them were institutionalized.
“So many things have been changing and opening up, but we can’t bring the great things that are coming to a child we can’t protect and allow to be born,” she said.
GOP Rep. Dean Arp said he sees the issue as one of discrimination — foreshadowing what’s likely to be an emotional and bitter floor debate.
“If we truly want to eradicate discrimination based on race or disability, we must ensure that this protection begins in the womb,” he said. “We don’t want to be the kind of society that disposes of children because of the way God created them.”
Abortion rights groups are opposing the bill.
“Abortion bans based on the reason behind a person’s decision have never been about promoting equality or ending discrimination,” said Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. “Instead, these types of arbitrary bans are part of a larger campaign to stigmatize abortion care, and make it more difficult for people to access the care they need.”
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic called it “yet another attempt to push abortion out of reach.”
HB 453 isn’t the only abortion bill surfacing over the past week. Senate Republicans also filed a new version of the “born alive abortion survivors” bill that was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in 2019.
That bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a Republican, spoke at Wednesday’s news conference and said that while a veto override attempt failed in 2019, “we’re going to this time. We won’t stop until we do.”
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