USA Today Laments: Texas Bill Would Make It Harder to Abort Down Syndrome Babies

By Penny Starr | July 8, 2013 | 4:26pm EDT

Children with Down syndrome are learning more today than ever before thanks to developmental research, according to Down Syndrome Education International. (Photo: DSE International)

( – The USA Today editorial board published a commentary on July 2 about a bill being debated by the Texas legislature that would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation, saying that it could make it harder for women to abort unborn babies that are diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“While some genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, can be detected with amniocentesis at 16 to 22 weeks, even then it can take two weeks to get results,” the editorial states. “Add specialists, research and time to reflect, and a 20-week ban forces women and couples to make heartrending decisions against a ticking clock.”

The editorial goes on to state that the law would also make it harder for women to get  an abortion if they find out after 20 weeks that their unborn child has a “serious impairment.”

“In some cases, they'd have no opportunity at all,” the editorial states. “Some of the most serious impairments — the failure of kidneys to materialize, or the development of organs outside the body — aren't discovered before couples at low-risk for problems have routine ultrasounds, at about 18 to 20 weeks.”

Republican Governor Rick Perry ordered a second legislative special session to allow time for the bill to be debated and voted on. That session began last week and continues this week.

Senate Bill 5 would prevent abortions in the state of Texas after 20 weeks gestation. The bill also requires clinics that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital not more than 30 miles away in case emergency care is required.

The legislation also requires abortion facilities to be upgraded to meet the standards of “ambulatory surgical centers.”

As reported by, a 1998 study by the Department of Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, published in Genetics of Medicine, concluded that in 1972, 1 in 1,000 babies were born with the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

“There was no pre-natal detection between 1972 and 1974,” said the report, which then measured how many women aborted their Down syndrome babies between 1972 and 1994.

“Between 1972 and 1994 the percentage of infants with Down syndrome who were liveborn decreased dramatically,” the report said. “In the early 1980s, this decrease reflected the impact of amniocentesis among women 35 and older.

“By the late 1980s, pre-natal detection was common among women younger than 35 years and detection was by several modalities including AFP screening, sonography and amniocentesis. When the (Down syndrome) diagnosis was established before 24 weeks of gestation, 86% to 87% of the parents chose elective termination of the pregnancy,” it said.

The USA Today editorial board said abortion is “a personal choice.”

“Should a politician in Washington or a state capital have the power to force a woman to carry a fetus that will be stillborn or die shortly after birth?” the editorial states.” Or order a woman to give birth to a baby she knows will suffer greatly?

“That's a personal choice, best left to a woman and her doctor,” the editorial states.

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