Bill outlawing sex-selective abortions promotes racial profiling and barriers to constitutionally-protected health care, does nothing to address causes of gender discrimination
(PRESS RELEASE) The full U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would impose an unconstitutional ban on abortion and make any abortion performed after an ultrasound a potential criminal offense.
The so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act,” which was introduced last year by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), would ban any abortion sought on the basis of gender—a problem that has been pervasive in other parts of the world like China and India, but for which there is little evidence of significant prevalence in the United States. The proposed legislation would impose severe criminal penalties on abortion providers who violate the law, including steep fines and prison terms of up to five years.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“There are many ways to attack the root causes of gender discrimination, but a bill that seeks to erode women’s constitutional rights, endanger their health, and cast a cloud of suspicion over their private medical decisions is certainly not one of them.
“Sex selection, to the extent it occurs in the U.S., must be addressed by policies that remedy the underlying causes of gender discrimination and son preference in particular communities—not by a criminal ban that would profile some women based on race and place barriers between all women and the reproductive health services they need.
“The House must immediately reject this dangerous and discriminatory bill.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, among many other international human rights groups, has done extensive work in India and other countries where sex selection is truly a widespread problem. The international consensus has been that banning abortions based on sex does nothing to address societal prejudice and discrimination that leads to son preference.
For example, in India, a law prohibiting the determination of a fetus’s sex before birth has failed to produce any meaningful change in sex ratios. In fact, the ratio among children from birth to age six has actually worsened.
According to 2011 interagency statement signed by the World Health Organization, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “experience indicates that legal restrictions in isolation from broader social policies and other measures to address deep-seated social norms and effect behavior change may be ineffective and may even detrimentally impact upon the human and reproductive rights of women.”
The bill’s sponsors, including Rep. Franks, have consistently opposed laws intended to protect women from violence and discrimination, such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act.
Those same lawmakers have also sponsored numerous proposals to undermine women’s reproductive health, including defunding Planned Parenthood, prohibiting the District of Columbia from using its own funds to provide poor women insurance coverage for abortions, an attempt to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District, and supporting a bill that would have allowed women with life-threatening pregnancies to suffer and die in emergency rooms if the attending physician refused to provide them with abortion care.