On Monday Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee circulated a memo in support of Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) cynically named Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. The proposed bill proposes to ban abortions based on the race or gender of the fetus and would give a woman’s family members the ability to sue abortion providers if they believed a woman obtained an abortion based on race or sex.
The memo argues in support of the “prenatal discrimination bill” by segregating out “black” abortions from abortions in general and makes the claim that “abortion is the leading cause of death in the black community.”
There’s a lot that is deeply disturbing about this latest attack. Let’s start with the procedural points. This is not the first time Franks has proposed this bill. Last year it didn’t make it out of committee. But this year it’s now getting a markup and gained 78 co-sponors means there’s a good chance the House of Representatives will vote on in prior to the November presidential elections.
That means that, believe it or not, the House has only grown more intolerant of reproductive rights. I didn’t think that was possible.
Now let’s talk about the substance of the bill. How exactly does one go about proving an abortion was obtained because of the baby’s race or sex? Since the bill grants legal standing to someone other than the woman who had the abortion to sue providers, this seems to be an important point to hash out. This is especially confusing related to the ban on race-specific abortions. Where is the evidence that black women are aborting a fetus because it will grow into a black baby?
The bill makes a disturbing expansion of the Republican drive to leave women’s medical decisions up to committees at which they have no seat. In no other circumstances do we allow family members to challenge completed medical procedures because of a belief it was done for a purpose they disagree with. How then is a doctor to protect his or herself from frivolous claims? Will providers make women needing abortion care get executed releases from their entire family prior to that procedure?
You get the point. The bill is designed to create enough procedural barriers while simultaneously and significantly expanding legal liability of providers who offer abortion care leaving abortion legal in name only.
If that were not bad enough the bill is steeped in a deeply troubling misunderstanding of history and race in this country that apparently at least 78 other members of Congress embrace.
We saw this in Georgia when anti-abortion activists tried to hijack the civil rights movement and appropriate that language in claiming to save black babies from genocide carried out by Planned Parenthood. This same ethos permeates Franks’ bill with cries of alarm over abortion rates in the African American community with this bill as the solution.
The reality is this. Nearly every abortion is the result of an unintended pregnancy, and black women’s unintended pregnancy rates reflect the specific difficulties women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services, just like other health outcomes for other conditions like heart disease. The harder it is to get health care of any kind, the worse the health outcomes. It’s time Republicans start accepting this fact.
Photo from guisse95 via flickr.