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Bill May Reduce Abortions of Babies with Disabilities

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer (Feb. 28, 2008) A Senate Committee has unanimously approved legislation that may help reduce the number of abortions of babies with Down Syndrome and other conditions. The bill would require that parents who receive a poor pre-natal diagnosis be provided with up-to-date information about the condition of their baby and available support services. The bill, entitled the Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act of 2005, was introduced by U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). It is intended to provide women with science-based information on diagnosed conditions as well as provide networks of support through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention patient and provider outreach programs. “We as a society must offer as much protection as we can to ‘the least of these’,” said Senator Brownback in a press release. “When a mother receives the news that her unborn child may be born with a disability, she should be supplied with current and reliable information about the many options available for caring for children with disabilities.” This bill is desperately needed. Recent studies have found that women are often pressured into abortion by physicians who do not provide adequate information about the test’s reliability, the baby’s condition, or what support services are available. As a result, as many as 90 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted, and numbers are similarly high for other conditions such as spina bifida, cystic fibrosis and dwarfism. Giving parents accurate information about both the condition and treatment options can save lives. Studies have found that when couples use only genetic screening to test for a specific disease, the number of abortions increases. However, when these couples also receive counseling and meet with an expert about the disease, the number of abortions decreases. The new bill would require physicians to give parents accurate information about the rate of false positives in prenatal testing, calls for the expansion of a national clearinghouse of information for parents of children with disabilities, and the expansion of national and local peer support programs. It will also create a national registry of families willing to adopt children with pre- or post-natally diagnosed conditions.  The situation is alarming enough to garner bi-partisan support for the bill. “One of the hardest moments in the life of an expectant mother is when she receives news that she is going to have a child with special needs,” said Senator Edward Kennedy, a co-sponsor of the bill, in a press release. “Access to the best support and information about the condition, and the quality of life for a child born with that condition, can make all the difference to a woman trying to make an informed and difficult decision. I believe this kind of support is a vital element to strengthening a true culture of life in America.” The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration. Contact your senator at 202-224-3121 and urge support for this bill, or go to www.senate.gov for specific contact information. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com   

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