Senate passes Brownback’s Down syndrome bill

? Doctors would have to give more comprehensive information to expectant mothers who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other medical conditions under a measure approved by the Senate.

The bill, passed late Tuesday on a voice vote, is the product of an unusual partnership between Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, an abortion-rights advocate from Massachusetts.

Brownback hopes the measure discourages women from terminating pregnancies if they test positive for Down syndrome or certain other conditions, such as spina bifida or cystic fibrosis. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of women who learn they are carrying a fetus with Down syndrome opt for an abortion.

The bill would require doctors to provide parents with the latest information about caring for children with disabilities as well as available support services and networks that can help parents unfamiliar with Down syndrome. Similar legislation is pending in the House.

“This bill will greatly benefit expecting parents who receive the sometimes overwhelming news that their unborn child may be born with a disability,” Brownback said in a statement. “This legislation will provide parents with current and reliable information about the many options available for caring for children with disabilities.”

Kennedy, a longtime advocate of the disabled and children with special needs, has said that access to support and information about the condition – and the quality of life for a child born with Down syndrome – can make a difference to women who face a difficult decision.