A bill preventing abortions for selective reasons such as the sex or race of the unborn baby is heading to the Wyoming Senate for debates this week.
House Bill 161, sponsored by Rep. John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, would ban abortions performed because the unborn child diagnosed with a disability or for the reasons of race, sex, color, national origin or ancestry.
The Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee tackled the bill first in its meeting on Tuesday, ultimately unanimously voting to pass it out of the committee.
“A woman goes to a genetic test done and the test shows the child has Down syndrome or it’s mixed race or something, and for that reason only, they choose to have their unborn child killed,” Romero-Martinez said during his testimony. “This bill prevents that.”
In the bill, disabilities are defined as any disease, defect or disorder that is genetically inherited, including physical, mental and intellectual disabilities, physical disfigurement, scoliosis, dwarfism, down syndrome, albinism, amelia, meromelia or a physical or mental disease.
An amendment was made to the bill to make an exception for women who terminate a pregnancy in the event their fetus is diagnosed with a fatal anomaly that would result in the child dying within three months of its birth.
Sen. Dan Furphy, R-Laramie, asked if there was any disability, besides a fatal one, that would be considered reasonable for a woman to terminate a pregnancy.
“You’re making it clear in this bill there is no disability that could not be purposive of an abortion,” Furphy said.
Romero-Martinez said there might be some “gray area” situations where a child might be born, but not have any brain capacity. He said this would likely fall under a lethal fetal anomaly.
“I don’t know, I would imagine…that’s covered under that amendment,” he said. “But it’s a tricky situation.”
Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, commented there are some countries that have increased genetic testing, but also have increased abortion rates in fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Mike Leman, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, spoke in support of the bill on Tuesday.
“Enforcement will be a challenge, but at least it will allow for retroactive action and that could save lives, if it prevents even one provider from encouraging an abortion, it will have been worth it,” Leman said.
Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, also testified in support of the bill.
“Life is precious and I struggle with the idea we even have to have this legislation and come to a point as a society where we say ‘You know what? This is worth saving and this is not worth saving,'” Neiman said.
Additionally, Wyoming Right to Life supported the bill.
Cheyenne physician and former legislator Larry Meuli spoke in opposition to the bill, however.
“I’m opposed to this bill…because of the unintended consequences of it,” Meuli said. “It bothers me the Wyoming Legislature feels like they can tell people what they can believe and how they can practice.”
Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, questioned the difference between “killing” a fetus while in the womb and killing a child at the age of 2.
Meuli countered there were many definitions of when life begins, and that he didn’t necessarily believe a fetus in the womb was a person.
Cheyenne realtor Wendy Volk also spoke in opposition of the bill, noting she had genetic testing done on a pregnancy, but added it wasn’t to decide whether or not she would terminate the pregnancy.
“I had a pregnancy at 42-years-old and there were some unusual things happenings in my pregnancy,” she said. “It was for the health and well-being of me and my pregnancy.”
With committee approval, the bill will now be sent to the Senate for a review by all senators.