Florida Sen. John Gruter in Sarasota has filed a bill in Tallahassee to ban the choice of mothers looking to have abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis given to a fetus.
We spoke to mothers at South West Florida PODS Angels Family Support Group, Inc. in LaBelle, which supports families and those living with Down syndrome.
To Rose Adams, her 8-year-old son, Billy, is her world.
When pregnant with him, doctors gave her the option of having an amniocentesis test to see if he had Down syndrome.
“We lost four children,” Adams said. “We had four miscarriages, so when we finally found out we were pregnant with our son. We decided not to do it.”
Billy was born with Down syndrome and is deaf. Adams said, even if she had known, it wouldn’t have changed her mind.
“Terminating a pregnancy in my eyes is not an option ever,” Adams said.
But not everyone makes the same choice. Mary Pringle works at the PODS center in LaBelle. And she has 18 adopted children. Seven of her children have Down syndrome. Pringle works with expectant mothers who often must make a difficult choice.
“Many of them are told the limits that the children will put on their lives,” Pringle said. “It’s a different perspective when they come and meet my children.”
Though she loves her children, Pringle knows the challenges of raising a child with Down syndrome.
“I believe that mothers should have choice,” Pringle said. “Humans, we should all have choice as long as we’re well informed.”
In Florida, the bill is being put through the process could potentially take away that choice from Florida mothers. It could make it illegal for expectant mothers to abort babies after finding out they have Down syndrome.
Attorney Pam Seay, an FGCU professor and legal expert, said the bill would be hard to enforce if it becomes law.
“Right now, abortions are permitted in this state,” Seay said. “And if you can do it for no reason, why shouldn’t you be able to do it for a reason. So I think there’s that dichotomy there, that challenge. How do you balance that?”
Pringle simply hopes more parents will open their hearts to children with Down syndrome and give them a chance to thrive just like any other child.
“They have their moments. They have their challenges, but they are just wonderful,”” Pringle said. “And it’s been nothing but pleasure for me.”
In a statement, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates said:
“At Planned Parenthood, we recognize that women must be able to make their own health care decisions with the advice and expertise of their health care provider — not politicians.
“Opponents of safe and legal access to abortion recognize they are out of step with the seventy-five percent of Floridians who agree that women should have the ability to decide whether to have an abortion with her doctor, without the government interfering. So, they rely on misdirection and emotional triggers like parental consent and children with disabilities to distract from their real agenda – to ban all abortion.
“What’s worse, this bill does nothing to advance rights for Americans with disabilities and instead uses children with disabilities as a political wedge.
“We should all work hard to ensure that people with disabilities are treated with equality and dignity.
“This law does nothing to address the serious concerns of disability communities. It does nothing to educate a woman and her family about living with a child with a disability, and it does nothing to ensure that people living with disabilities have access to health care and other services they may need.
“It is clear these laws are just another attempt to restrict access to safe and legal abortion and intimidate doctors and patients. That’s wrong. And that’s why we oppose this bill.”