HR 4903 would criminalize the performance of an abortion (1) knowing that the person seeking an abortion is doing so because of a prenatal test or diagnosis indicating that the fetus has Down syndrome or (2) without asking if the person seeking an abortion is doing so because there is an indication for Down syndrome. This bill would also criminalize the acts of accepting money to perform such an abortion or transporting a person seeking an abortion across state lines to obtain one.
Under this bill, a maternal grandparent of a fetus with an underage mother, the mother of a fetus, or the father of a fetus would be able to take civil action against a person who performed or attempted to perform an above-described abortion. Such a case would be expedited in court, and the person who sought an abortion would have their identity protected. Persons who perform, or attempt to perform, abortions would be subject to a fine, jail time, or both. This bill would not apply to the termination of a pregnancy when the person needs to induce labor, needs an abortion to protect their health, or needs to remove a demised fetus.
Most humans have 46 chromosomes in their cells, two copies of chromosomes 1 through 22, and two sex chromosomes. Down syndrome is a common genetic disorder where a person has extra material from chromosome 21 (C21), resulting in cells with material from 47 chromosomes. There are three ways in which this can occur.
The first way is by an error during meiosis, where one cell divides two times to create four daughter sex cells with 23 chromosomes. During the division step, two chromosomes of the same identity line up in the middle of the cell, then separate, each going to a different daughter cell. If, during either division step, the two C21 chromosomes do not separate, known as nondisjunction, the daughter cells may have either too many or too few C21 chromosomes. If a sex cell with an extra C21 fertilizes another sex cell, the resulting cell will have 47 chromosomes; if a sex cell without C21 fertilizes another sex cell, the resulting cell will only have 45 chromosomes and the pregnancy will most likely not be viable.
The second way is when nondisjunction occurs during cell division after fertilization, causing some cells to have 46 chromosomes and others to have 47 (with three copies of C21), known as mosaic Down syndrome.
Lastly, if all or part of a C21 chromosome is stuck to another chromosome, known as translocation, then the cell can have two free C21 chromosomes and additional C21 material stuck to another chromosome.
The bill does not distinguish between Down syndrome and mosaic Down syndrome, or between fetuses with extra C21 material caused by nondisjunction or translocation.