New “Chloe’s Law” mandates explanation of prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses

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A new Pennsylvania law, that goes into effect October 1, requires doctors to provide “informational publications” to patients upon the finding of Down syndrome during prenatal testing.

The impetus for the law comes from advocates concerned about the abortion rate for women whose fetuses are diagnosed with Down syndrome. A 1999 study found that 92 percent of women opt for an abortion in these circumstances, though some medical experts have questioned whether the size of this study was large enough to extrapolate from, according to an article by RH Reality Check.

Under the Down Syndrome Prenatal and Postnatal Education Act, doctors must provide patients a pamphlet with “up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome,” including “developmental, educational and psychosocial outcomes,” life expectancy, and “any other information the department deems necessary.”

The bill, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett on May 18, passed through both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature with only four dissenting votes. The measure is known as Chloe’s Law, named after an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome.

Some advocates for people with Down syndrome disapprove of the new law because of language in the pamphlet that reminds patients that abortion remains an option.

“We have board members with Down syndrome,” David Tolleson, director of the National Down Syndrome Congress, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “In their minds, their advocacy organization should not be touting termination as coequal to other options. . . That’s like saying your life is not worth living.”

Many medical organizations also opposed the law.

“(The law) may be well-intended, but it clearly interferes with the physician-patient relationship, and (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) opposes [it],” Owen Montgomery, chair of ob-gyn at Drexel University College of Medicine, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Five other states, including Delaware and Maryland, have passed similar laws in the past two years.

Due to improvements in science and social services, the prospects for people with Down syndrome have improved dramatically. The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome is now 60 years, more than double what it was three decades ago.