By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
May 7, 2021
Lawmakers took action this week on two bills (HB 453 and HB 473) aimed at protecting some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens — the unborn and the newborn.
Passed by the House by a vote of 67-42 on Thursday after some emotional debate, the measure, HB 453 – Human Life Non-Discrimination Act/No Eugenics would expand the state’s ban on sex-selective abortions to include those performed because of the baby’s race or the presumption that the child has Down Syndrome.
“We do not want to be the kind of society that not only discriminates but disposes of children because of the way they are created,” Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union), one of four primary bill sponsors, told his colleagues.
Earlier in the week during committee meetings, he cited a poll showing that 70 percent of respondents opposed Down Syndrome abortions, but he also reported that between 61 and 91 percent of women choose abortion when the chromosomal abnormality is indicated via prenatal testing.
As they presented the measure in committee after committee, supporters said it would not only shield the Down Syndrome community, but that it would also protect families from coercive healthcare practices and guard the integrity of the medical profession by preventing doctors from becoming witting participants in the abortions.
Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) told members of the Health and Judiciary I committees that the bill was “less about should a woman have an abortion or not and more about not discriminating against the baby in the womb just because it has Down Syndrome.” He said he has employed four people with Down Syndrome in his office and has come to appreciate all that they contribute to society.
Parents of several children with Down Syndrome echoed that sentiment in committee meetings with moving speeches about all they had learned from their children and the lives they had affected.
“Today’s worldview offers something that looks like freedom but ends in bondage. God offers something that looks like bondage but ends in freedom,” said Paige Brydon, who told lawmakers that when she first had her son Miller, who has DS, she thought God was punishing her for an abortion she had had years before and she accepted her plight as a “ball-and-chain” kind of sentence.
“But As Miller grew, so did an awakening in our lives. … Miller loves the unlovable and touches the untouchable,” she said, urging passage of the bill. “I thought God had given me a child with special needs so I could show him how to live, but then I realized God sent me, with special needs, Miller to teach me how to live.”
Lawmakers also heard from opponents of the bill in committee, including representatives from NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, all of whom argued that it would violate women’s rights and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
On the House floor, Rep. James Galliard (D-Nash), who ultimately voted for the bill because he said his conscience wouldn’t let him vote against it, delivered a nine-and-a-half minute rant accusing bill sponsors of using the measure to promote power, politics and division.
“Most of the people who think this is a good bill wouldn’t even wear a mask to save lives,” he railed, before being warned by the chair to stay on topic and not to make disparaging remarks about fellow legislators.
Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), the bill’s main sponsor, responded by telling colleagues that she loved them all and that she had filed the bill, not as a power play, but for people like 9-year-old Jayden Ng, the author of the following note, which an emotional McElraft read aloud: “My name is Jayden and I have Down Syndrome. I know in my heart that I am God’s child, and I love my life. I like to tell people about what I can do. I can draw, play piano, and I can do all the things you can do. I like math, reading, spelling and grammar. I like swimming and my favorite stroke is the breaststroke.”
“This is about these special children who bring so much joy to their families, to the community, to their classmates,” McElraft said. “This is about giving them a chance. … Please listen to Jayden.”
House Bill 473 – Revise Laws/Safe Surrender/Infants, which passed the House on Wednesday, would expand and modify the state’s Safe Surrender Law by incorporating recommendations from the Child Fatality Task Force.
Initially passed in 2001 and aimed at preventing abandonment and infanticide, the law allows the parent of a child under 7 days old to hand the baby over to a responsible party without fear of facing charges. House Bill 473 would remove “any adult” from the list of those designated to accept a surrendered infant, limiting that list to healthcare providers, social workers or first-responders such as emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers or firefighters. Supporters of the measure say the “any adult” language needs to come out because of the increasing dangers of human-trafficking. They want to be sure a surrendered infant lands in the hands of a responsible person who will take the baby to the Department of Social Services.
The bill would also provide more information to a surrendering parent and better guarantee that the parent’s identity is protected. Further, it would incorporate steps to help ensure that the law is applied only when certain criteria are met. The infant must be under 7 days old and show no signs of abuse or neglect, and the individual surrendering must be the parent and must give a clear indication that he or she does not intend to return for the baby.
Both HB 453 and HB 473 are now headed to the N.C. Senate.