Tomorrow the House of Representatives will vote on HR 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) a bill that would impose criminal penalties on anyone who performs an abortion based on the sex of a child.
It’s a cynical bill and one designed as much to garner political points in trying to push back against the rhetoric of a Republican war on women as it is to legislate any real need. How do we know? A key sponsor is Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), also known for pushing a 20 week abortion ban for the District of Columbia despite not actually representing the constituents of D.C.
Democratic opposition to the bill began immediately and with the bill’s original name, the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-discrimination Act. The original name reflected that the bill also sought to ban abortions based on the race of the child, but took out that language in committee. Republicans agreed to strike that language in the Judiciary committee, and also changed the name of the bill. Democrats argued in February that while the bill was named after these civil rights heroes, it has nothing to do with protecting civil rights. “It is offensive that the sponsors of this bill would invoke the names of two of our nation’s historic civil rights pioneers,” House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said.
Those changes didn’t make the bill any better, and as at least one advocate has pointed out, had the effect of simply highlighting the Republican hypocrisy in promoting an anti-abortion bill grounded in the language of supporting women’s rights.
Proponents of the bill like to argue this is the next wave of civil rights battles for women, but like all claims from the anti-abortion right, those assurances need a heavy dose of scrutiny. They fail to explain how such a claims will be investigated and proven–beyond sensationalized smear campaigns that is. Nor can they identify as any substantiated problem sex-selection abortion.
That is likely because there is no such problem and proof of sex a motive for aborting is notoriously impossible to pin down. Instead, the bill is designed to deter providers from offering abortion services out of fear of criminal prosecution which makes the bill nothing more than a cowardly and cynical end-run of women’s human rights.
Photo from infowidget via flickr.