Honorable Chair and members of the Committee
I am a retired nurse practitioner and volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center in Worcester. My work consists of counseling women in a crisis pregnancy about their options. They are three: carry their baby to term, place their baby for adoption or abort their baby.
It is through this work that I have become familiar with the pressure placed upon women to abort their baby when that baby is diagnosed in utero with Downs syndrome.
In Massachusetts, 49% of women carrying a baby with Down’s syndrome choose to abort their baby, a very sad fact indeed. Sadder yet, however, is that women coming to our agency frequently think abortion is actually their only option. Women who want to keep their baby with Downs syndrome, regardless of whatever physical or intellectual disability their baby may grow up with, consistently relay stories of being unduly pressured to abort the baby. The recommendation may come from their provider only once or on every subsequent visit. Alternately, there may be several different health care providers urging a woman to seek abortion as her best option. In a few instances, women have described having to “fight” for their child’s life. Women and parents-to-be come to us seeking education and support because they are not finding it where they would most likely expect to receive it – from their obstetrician or midwife. In the medical community, there is oftentimes a bias against babies, who are less than perfect, being born. There is not an honest and fair presentation of options being offered to many parents.
H.2409 seeks to stem the tide of discrimination against unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome It does not ban any abortion. It merely prohibits an abortion provider, who knows a pregnant woman is seeking an abortion based solely on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, from performing the abortion. She is free to seek an abortion from another provider. And we know that access to abortion is not an issue for almost all women living in Massachusetts.
A diagnosis of Down’s syndrome should not be an automatic death sentence for a baby, nor a lifetime of regret for a woman who had an abortion thinking it was her only choice. As you have heard and will hear, persons with Down’s Syndrome can go on to lead normal productive, and fulfilling lives, while at the same time enriching the lives of those around them.
I urge you to support the passage of H.2409, An Act Relative to Unborn Victims of Down Syndrome. Thank You.