South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday announced that she will ask the state legislature to pass a bill banning abortions of children diagnosed with Down syndrome while in the womb.
Noem made the announcement on Fox News, appearing with Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), his wife Rachel Campos-Duffy, and their daughter Valentina for an interview ahead of Noem's State of the State address before South Dakota lawmakers later today. The Duffy family will be featured guests for Noem's address, supporting the governor's effort to advance her pro-life legislation by sharing baby Valentina's story.
"I'll be talking a lot about strong families, about our economy, how well it's doing, how we can invest in our future, and also how we're going to focus on protecting life," Noem said, previewing her address.
"I'm proposing a bill to the legislature that would prevent abortions for babies based on a Down syndrome diagnosis. So a doctor would not be [permitted] to conduct an abortion on a woman because the child has been diagnosed specifically just for Down syndrome," the governor explained.
"Every single life is precious, regardless of what situation the family is facing. Every life is a blessing, and I think little Valentina right here, her little face shows what a blessing that she is to this family and they're going to be here talking to the people of South Dakota and our legislators about how important that bill is," she added.
In the United States, about 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome each year, according to Healthline. An estimated one in 700 babies carries the genetic condition, and it is the most common chromosomal disorder in the United States. Reliable data is difficult to find, but the best guess of studies that have investigated the issue suggests that 67% of U.S. pregnancies in which doctors say the baby would be born with Down syndrome are aborted, killing the child before it is born.
In August of last year, Rep. Duffy announced he would be retiring from Congress after learning that his then-unborn baby girl Valentina has Down syndrome and a heart condition that would require surgery shortly after she was born. Duffy's wife, Rachel, praised Gov. Noem for advocating on behalf of children like Valentina, who have no voice of their own.
"Just so proud of Gov. Noem for taking on such an important issue. I don't think it's a coincidence that she's a mom and that this is coming out of a mom governor," she said.
"At this time especially, we're living in a time where so many people are being censored and I think Gov. Kristi Noem is giving a voice to a group of people who don't have a voice, who don't have a lobby, who don't have anyone to fight for them other than their moms and good leaders like Gov. Noem."
Mrs. Campos-Duffy also shared a message for women who may be struggling with uncertainty after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis for their unborn babies.
"I would just say to any woman who has a diagnosis, who gets that call from the doctor just like I did, Valentina has given me as much joy and pride as any of my other little babies. And she's an American and she has a right to live just like everybody else."
Rep. Duffy echoed his wife's feelings.
"I would tell you it's scary, because we were scared. We didn't know what it meant or what it means. But from our vantage point, we had a lot of people who are parents of children with Down syndrome and they said it is going to be the greatest experience you will ever have. They are the most wonderful children, and that has been our experience," he said.
Noem hopes that inviting the Duffy family to South Dakota to share their story will persuade lawmakers to take action and pass her bill.
"I think what's so important about this is that stories have power, and stories are inspirational. So we can talk about facts, and I can stand up today and talk to the people of South Dakota about how great our economy's doing, how successful our businesses are because we didn't shut down in our state, how our people are happy because we let them use personal responsibility to get through the pandemic," Noem explained.
"But it's stories like this family that really drive home the point of why we focus on people, that we're in the people business. And it's not just helping them put food on the table and a roof over their heads, but it's about giving every single person the opportunity to live, to go after the American dream, and to be a part of the story of America. And that's what we're really looking for, is to inspire folks to really join together at this time — when we see so much division — to really focus on how we can love each other and love every single person."