CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – “Sawyer’s Law,” a bill that would help prevent people with disabilities from being denied life-saving organ transplants, passed unanimously in the Virginia Senate this week. The bill from Sen. Todd Pillion would prohibit people with disabilities from being placed lower on an organ transplant list. It also prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people on the basis of disability.
The committee voted 15-0 to send Pillion’s bill, SB 846, to the Senate floor for a vote. The House companion bill, HB 1273, from Del. Israel O’Quinn, passed the House last unanimously last week 99-0.
The woman behind it all is from the New River Valley. Christiansburg mom Lauren Shelor said her baby, Sawyer, changed her and her husband’s life forever.
“Sawyer is the most beautiful and perfect I've ever been given,” Shelor said.
She said that’s the reason she wanted to change the world for her son.
“When Sawyer was born, my heart grew tenfold,” Shelor said. “I wanted to be able to say ‘when I look back on my life that I made a difference for him and for people like him.’"
That's why she's fighting for change.
Sawyer’s law clarifies discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited in organ transplant decisions.
“The presence of a disability does not equal the absence of human worth,” Shelor said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act -- a federal act -- already protects against discrimination, but Shelor said it still happens. She’s fighting to make sure it never happens to Sawyer.
“He has had heart surgery before, but if for some reason in the future his repair failed, and he did need a heart transplant at some point, I can't imagine him being denied that opportunity solely on the basis of down syndrome,” Shelor said.
Advocate Charlotte Woodward from the National Down Syndrome society came to testify in support of the bill.
The bill is being discussed among legislatures during crossover, but has progressed quickly this session with great support. Seeing the progress is a proud moment for Shelor.
“I am thrilled at my ability to make a difference in our state,” Shelor said.