Republican West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law last week the Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act. The new law bans abortions that discriminate against unborn children with disabilities, including Down Syndrome.
The law goes into effect in June. It was passed by the state legislature earlier this month and Gov. Justice held the signing ceremony on March 21, World Down Syndrome Day. The governor said aborting unborn babies on the basis of medical disability “just seems terribly discriminatory in my book.”
Abortion providers in the state will now have to ask a mother if the procedure is being sought because of a possible disability. The provider will have to provide a statement to the state in each case that disability is not the reason. While there are no penalties under the law for patients, providers could lose their license for failure to comply.
West Virginians for Life played a large part in getting the law passed, arguing to the legislature that it would protect babies from harmful discrimination that could never be imposed on persons after their birth. Critics have predictably argued that the law will limit access to abortions and also say that it will undermine patient trust in medical professionals.
Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser issued a statement proclaiming West Virginia took a “bold step forward” in the fight against “eugenic discrimination.” She added that research indicates 99 percent of persons with Down Syndrome lead happy lives but have far too often been killed in the womb when they are completely defenseless.
Dannenfelser went on to say that the pro-life advocacy group is proud to stand with West Virginians in calling on America to “embrace, not erase” children with Down Syndrome.
West Virginia joins several other states in enacting pro-life legislation in anticipation of the possible overruling of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The court is currently considering its final ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which it has been asked to expressly overturn the 1973 ruling preventing states from regulating or prohibiting abortions in almost all cases before fetal viability. The Dobbs ruling is expected to be issued by the end of June.