Wolf vetoes abortion ban bill

HARRISBURG — A bill that would have prohibited abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome was vetoed Thursday by Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor.

One day after it passed the Republican-controlled Legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf made good on a promise and rejected the legislation.

Wolf’s veto message called it a restriction on women and medical professionals that interferes with women’s health care and decisions made by patients and their physicians. He argued it was unneeded legislation.

“Physicians and their patients must be able to make choices about medical procedures based on best practices and standards of care,” Wolf wrote.

Pennsylvania law allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy for any reason except to select a gender. The bill would have added to that prohibition a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergency.

Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays and medical conditions such as heart defects and respiratory and hearing problems.

The National Down Syndrome Society says about one in 700 babies in the United States — or about 6,000 a year — is born with the condition.

The General Assembly passed the bill amid a wave of abortion restrictions advancing in more conservative states.

Backers have defended the proposed legislation as protecting a vulnerable population whose lives are productive. The Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative advocacy group active in opposing abortion, said medical professionals have pressured women and families to have abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis.