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Politics & Policy

South Dakota Governor Calls For a Ban on Down-Syndrome Abortion

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem speaks to the press in Atlanta, Ga., December 6, 2020. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

In her State of the State address earlier this week, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem called on the state legislature to prohibit abortions chosen because the unborn child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.

“Even today, in 2021, some European countries, like Iceland and Denmark, are on pace to virtually eliminate children with Down syndrome,” Noem said. “They do this one way and one way only: through abortion.”

Indeed, a few years ago, CBS News published a feature piece on how Iceland had been “eradicating Down syndrome births.” In reality, the country has seen a sharp rise in the number of women who choose abortion after receiving a prenatal Down-syndrome diagnosis. In other words, Iceland hasn’t been eliminating Down syndrome at all; it has been eliminating people with Down syndrome.

“I look forward to the day when the Supreme Court recognizes that all preborn children inherently possess this right to life, too,” Noem continued, citing the Declaration of Independence. “Until that time comes, I am asking the South Dakota legislature to pass a law that bans the abortion of a preborn child, just because that child is diagnosed with Down syndrome.”

The Republican governor added that her team would be working with pro-life groups to present draft legislation for state lawmakers to consider this session.

In late 2019, Republicans in Congress introduced a bill that might serve as a model, the “Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act,” which would forbid abortion providers from performing abortions sought because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The legislation contains privacy protections for pregnant mothers, forbids the use of coercion against them, and bars them from prosecution.

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