Pa. Legislature overwhelmingly passes 'Chloe's Law'

-A A +A

Posted: Fri., July 11, 2014

ANN RODGERS
General Manager

 In an overwhelming bi-partisan vote, the Pennsylvania Legislature has passed "Chloe's Law," which requires medical practitioners to give accurate information about Down syndrome and about support services for children with Down syndrome, to parents whose unborn child has been diagnosed with the genetic disorder.

 Currently about 90 percent of such parents choose to abort their Down syndrome child. Down syndrome causes short stature, low muscle tone, slanted eyes, broad facial features and a varying degree of intellectual impairment.

 The bill was dubbed "Chloe's Law" for Chloe Kondrich, a sixth-grader from Upper St. Clair who has Down ayndrome. She benefitted from early therapy, could read by age 3 and started first grade in a regular classroom where she continues to read at grade level. She also plays sports. Chloe lobbied for the bill with her father, Kurt Kondrich, by visiting and reading to legislators.  She has also read to Gov. Tom Corbett, who is expected to sign the bill.

 "She has really gotten them to open up their hearts," her father said. "You can talk about something as a statistic. But when you look into the eyes of a child, when she reads to you and talks to you, it makes a real impact."

 Chloe's mother, Margie, a hair designer in a Mount Lebanon spa, didn't have pre-natal testing. When Chloe was born, "we were told early on all the things she couldn't do," Chloe's father said. "When these families go for pre-natal tests, all they are told is that their child can't do this and can't do that. They are told all the negatives and almost subliminally pressured into terminating that child."

 On July 1 the state Senate passed Chloe's Law 50-0. A July 2 vote in the state House was 196-4. Officially known as the Down Syndrome Prenatal Education Act, it requires the Pennsylvania Department of Health to provide health care practitioners with up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome that has been reviewed by medical experts and the major organizations that advocate for individuals with Down syndrome. It must be given to the expectant parents along with information on support services.

 Kondrich, the brother of Deacon Keith Kondrich from Word of God Parish, Swissvale, was overwhelmed by the rapid bi-partisan passage.

 "Something like this normally takes years. It was in God's hands," said Kondrich, who left a career in law enforcement to become an advocate for children with Down syndrome. He is director of community and family outreach at Early Intervention Specialists.

 "When my daughter was born, I was deeply disturbed by the fact that they kill off these kids. Chloe is nothing but joy, and she has already brought more good to this world in 11 years than most people do in 80 or 90 years," he said.

 Bishop David Zubik has met Chloe, and keeps a picture of the two of them in his office. She once memorably described the bishop by quoting Elvis Presley: "He's a hunk, a hunk of burning love."

 "This vote gives me hope that our elected leaders can move beyond their party and do what is best to protect the common good," Bishop Zubik said.

 When he visits parishes for confirmation, young people with Down syndrome stand out for their responsiveness and affection.

 "People with Down syndrome have a special place in my heart," he said. "They don't hide their feelings. People with Down syndrome are a gift to society. They teach us the finer things in life. They teach us that, as Antoine de Saint-Euxpery wrote in 'The Little Prince,' it is only with the heart that one can see rightly."

 The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is asking Pennsylvanians to thank their legislators for supporting the bill. Amy Hill, the director of communications for the Catholic Conference, noted that three key supporters were based within the Diocese of Pittsburgh: Rep. Jim Marshall, R-Beaver, Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, Butler. Contact information is available at www.pacatholic.org.