The governor of North Dakota signed into law three bills related to restricting abortion services last week. These laws include a prohibition on "selective abortion." Women in North Dakota, therefore, can no longer choose abortion based upon a prenatal diagnosis of anything from Down syndrome (the most common chromosomal condition, which now comes with a life expectancy of 60) to anencephaly, in which a fetus' cerebral cortex does not develop and an early death is certain. Some disability advocates have hailed the bill as a step towards a more just and open society. Mark Leach, a lawyer and father of a child with Down syndrome, writes, "public policy starts with the statement that discrimination is prohibited and then states enact policies to create a society where discrimination is no longer a barrier." Leach also backs legislative action that provides information and support for women with prenatal diagnoses, as recent laws in Kentucky and Massachusetts have done.
Other parents of children with Down syndrome have expressed concern over the North Dakota law. Alison Piepmeier, director of women's and gender studies at the College of Charleston, wrote in an essay for Motherlode this week:
If North Dakota really does want it to be "a great day for babies in North Dakota" and wants to prove that "a civil society does not discriminate against people ... for their sex or for disability," it should make the state a welcoming place for people with disabilities. The state could take the cash reserves it has put aside for legal challenges to its laws and use those funds to train public schools to be meaningfully inclusive (as all the best research shows is the way to go). It could provide easily accessible medical care and early intervention. The state could develop independent -- but supported -- housing for adults with intellectual disabilities so that there are not waiting lists years long.