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After Some Back-Room Maneuvers, PA's Abortion-Restricting Bill Progresses

PA House Speaker Mike Turzai.

HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) -- A Senate committee has kicked forward a bill that would make it illegal to abort a fetus because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis.

The measure has a powerful sponsor in Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai. It already passed his chamber, and had been awaiting Senate action for over a month.

Lancaster County GOP Senator Scott Martin, another key backer, said the concept mirrors current laws outlawing abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

“To me, making decisions based on certain perceived traits or classes of individuals is something we should be very worried about as a society,” Martin said. “I think we really need to be protective of the fact that we don’t engage in anything that’s very eugenic.”

Opponents, like Montgomery County Democrat Daylin Leach, don’t buy that.

“This isn’t specific to Down syndrome,” Leach argued in the committee hearing. “It’s an attempt to reduce the availability of women’s opportunity to have abortions generally.”

The bill’s passage from the Senate Judiciary Committee came after some intricate legislative moves on Turzai’s part.

Earlier this week, the Speaker unexpectedly attached the abortion measure to a seemingly-unrelated one protecting child sex abuse victims.

That bill would compel police to report interactions with sexually exploited children, and would also provide the minors with long-term housing and counseling, among other services.

Sponsored by GOP Senator Stewart Greenleaf, that measure had seemed to be on track for a signature from Governor Tom Wolf.

But its path was endangered by Turzai’s amendment.

Staff for Greenleaf said the Senator ultimately moved Turzai’s standalone bill from his committee about a week sooner than planned—but noted, the Senator supported it regardless.

A spokesman for Turzai confirmed that after Greenleaf passed the freestanding version of the abortion bill, the Speaker removed his amendment from Greenleaf’s legislation.