Senators Lankford, Inhofe Introduce Legislation To Prohibit Discrimination of Babies with Down Syndrome

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to introduce the Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act, which would prohibit abortion based on an unborn child having Down syndrome. Congressman Ron Estes (KS-04) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Sponsors of the bill include Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AR) Rick Scott (R-FL), James Risch (R-ID), Mike Braun (R-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS.), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

As prenatal screenings increase in availability and accessibility, more and more people learn whether or not their baby has Down syndrome prior to the baby’s birth. Sadly, many of these lives are aborted following a diagnosis—over two-thirds of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in the U.S., and Iceland has virtually eradicated Down syndrome altogether. The Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act would enact a federal ban on the performance of abortion with the knowledge that a pregnant woman is seeking an abortion, in whole or in part, on the basis of a belief that her unborn child has Down syndrome. This legislation would not penalize the expectant mother in any way.

“If you’ve ever met someone or have a family member with Down syndrome, you know they are joyous, wonderful people who deserve as much out of life as any other person,” said Lankford. “I am honored to join Senator Inhofe in cosponsoring the Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act to protect children in the womb who are diagnosed with Down syndrome. God has a plan for every life, and we should honor that plan by working together as a nation to ensure each child and his or her family have access to the resources they need to succeed regardless of whether or not a child has an extra chromosome.”

“Every life has value and that extends to the unborn,” Inhofe said. “To take away the precious life of an unborn baby is murder, but to deny a child the chance at life because of his or her chromosome count is a heinous effort to eliminate a vibrant community through abortion. That’s why I am introducing a bill to prohibit abortion based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. All children should be given the chance at life and today, with the introduction of the Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act, we have a chance to give a voice to the voiceless and build on pro-life legislation we’ve already championed, including the Life at Conception Act, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivor Protection Act and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

“As October is recognized as Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I am happy to champion this bill to protect the unborn and the most vulnerable in our society,” said Estes. “Individuals with Down syndrome enrich countless lives and communities and deserve the same protections and opportunities under federal law, beginning with the fundamental right to life. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this common sense pro-life legislation.”

“Every human being is born with God-given dignity and potential,” Daines said. “The act of killing an unborn baby, simply because she has Down syndrome, has no place in our society. It’s our duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society. That’s why I’m introducing this bill, because it would protect precious life from lethal discrimination by abortion.”

“Babies with disabilities deserve our love and protection. But sadly, many of these babies don’t even get a chance at life. Protecting unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome moves us closer to a society that respects life in all forms and all stages,” Cotton said.

“Every child is born with dignity and deserves to be welcomed into the world,” said Scott. “As a father and a grandfather, I am proud to fight for every life, and I hope all of my colleagues join me in protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

“Life begins at conception, and we must defend the sanctity of all life,” Risch said. “This legislation will protect the unborn and hold medical professionals accountable who knowingly perform abortions on babies because they have Down syndrome. I’m proud to support this bill and will continue fighting for all children’s right to life.”

“Every human life is sacred and valuable regardless of any potential disability,” said Braun. “ I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation that follows what Indiana and other states have done to affirm the dignity of all human life.”

“Every life is precious. To abort an innocent child because he or she could have Down syndrome is simply inhumane,” Ernst said. “This bill is an important step to protecting life at all stages.”  

“Abortions of any kind are an affront to the sanctity of life, but it is especially heartbreaking when these babies are denied a chance at life because of their special needs,” said Hyde-Smith. “This legislation is another attempt to protect the rights of the unborn and the sanctity of life.”

“6,000 babies with down syndrome are born every year,” said Cramer. “Each of them is a human being who deserves the right to life and the opportunity to make a difference in this world.”

“Every human life is valuable and this legislation protects babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, following on a similar law passed by the state of North Dakota,” Hoeven said. “Individuals with Down syndrome make important contributions to families, communities and society and should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Life is precious, which is why I have continually voted to protect it throughout my time in Congress,” said Thune. “Abortion is abhorrent on its own, but it is even more devastating when it is encouraged because of the discovery of a genetic disorder like Down syndrome. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation because every child deserves a chance at life, and I will always be in their corner.”

“All babies are God’s children. It is just horrific to think that the life of an innocent child with Down syndrome could end before that child has the opportunity to embrace all the world has to offer. This legislation is brought forward in the name of defending every child’s right to life,” Blackburn said.

“Life is a precious gift from God that should be treated with respect and dignity, from the very beginning to the very end,” said Rounds. “Unborn children have a right to life, regardless of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, which is why I’m pleased to join Sen. Inhofe to introduce this legislation.”

Eight states (IN, OH, ND, LA, KY, MO, AR, UT) have enacted legislation to prohibit abortion on the basis of Down syndrome. Courts have enjoined the law in several of the states. Several additional states have introduced similar legislation. While the Supreme Court recently declined to take up Indiana’s Down syndrome abortion ban, Justice Thomas made it clear that the Supreme Court has not “decide[d] whether the Constitution requires States to allow eugenic abortions.”

Bill Overview

  • Makes it illegal for a doctor to knowingly perform an abortion being sought because the baby has or may have Down syndrome, or, if the doctor does not know whether Down syndrome is a contributing factor, requires the doctor to first ask the mother if she is aware of any test results indicating that the child has Down syndrome and to inform her of prohibitions put in place by the law.
  • Prohibits anyone from forcing a woman to have an abortion because the baby has Down syndrome.
  • Imposes a fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years on those who violate the law, and pulls federal funds under existing federal disability anti-discrimination laws from associated abortion clinics.
  • Protects the mother by barring her from being prosecuted or held liable for any violation of the bill and puts in place guardrails to protect her privacy in all court proceedings.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.