Friday, June 2, 2023

Cooper vetoes ‘no eugenics’ Down syndrome abortion ban bill

Legislators are facing several abortion-related bills this session, with some seeking to ban discriminatory abortions and others seeking to remove restrictions to access. (Port City Daily/File)

Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed House Bill 453, legislation that aims to prevent abortion for the reason of sex, race, or a positive prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. 

The bill places the reporting onus on phsyicians who would be required to submit signed affirmations confirming whether the race, sex, or precense of Down syndrome motivated a woman seeking an abortion after the 16th gestational week. 

RELATED: ‘No eugenics’ bill would ban Down syndrome, race-motivated abortions

Down syndrome is detectable through a prenatal blood screening with near-certainty, typically conducted by choice around the 10th gestational week of pregnancy.

Physicians would have to report if the patient told them this information or if they had a reason to believe these were factors. 

In Cooper’s veto message Friday, he said the legislation was an example of government interference in private medical decisions. 

“This bill gives the government control over what happens and what is said in the exam room between a woman and her doctor at a time she faces one of the most difficult decisions of her life,” he wrote in the message. “This bill is unconstitutional and it damages the doctor-patient relationship with an unprecedented government intrusion.”

The bill passed the House in May mostly down party lines, picking up six Democratic votes. In the Senate, no Democrats signed on when it passed earlier this month. To override a gubernatorial veto, the bill would have to pick up just three more votes in the Senate and five more votes in the House.

Disability rights supporters had a range of responses to the bill, from remaining neutral to opposing it on the basis that it strips bodily autonomy.

Pro-life groups stand by the bill, arguing that aborting fetuses based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome is a modern form of eugenics. In European countries where prenatal testing is more widespread, far fewer children are born with the chromosomal disorder.

“Saving unborn babies who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome from being targeted for selective abortion based solely on their disability prevents discrimination,” Tami Fitzgerald, President of NC Values Coalition said in a press release Friday. “Ending that kind of discrimination based on a disability is most certainly not an ‘unprecedented government intrusion’ as Cooper said, because our Civil Rights laws were intentioned to end just that kind of discrimination. The Governor should mind his own ‘unprecedented government intrusions’ in the past year.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood praised the governor’s decision.

“Governor Cooper has proven himself to be a champion for reproductive health care once again, and we applaud his action today,” Susanna Birdsong, North Carolina Director of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said in a press release. “The state should never interfere with the relationship between a patient and their medical provider or force a person to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. The governor was right to reject this harmful bill, and we urge state lawmakers to uphold his veto.” 

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