Two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation aimed at cracking down on abortions motivated by the gender or race or disability of the fetus.
The bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would make it a felony to knowingly end a pregnancy because of disability, gender, or race. If convicted, the person who performed the abortion could face up to two years in prison.
“Essentially the doctor would be the one responsible to determine whether or not the woman was choosing abortion for the specific purpose of it being a disability or sex selection,” said Genevieve Marnon, the legislative director for Right to Life Michigan.
She explained that, under the law, the woman getting the abortion would not be held responsible, instead the onus would fall on the doctor or medical professional performing the procedure.
“It would be a felony if the doctor in his or her estimation was performing the abortion for the specific purpose of eradicating a child based on their inalienable qualities,” Marnon said.
Marnon explained that babies diagnosed with disabilities such as Down Syndrome are targeted for abortion at “astronomically high rates.”
“We’re looking to hold those who perform abortions based on the concern of race, gender, or disability accountable,” said state Rep. Julie Calley, R-Portland. “We are in an age where we have less and less tolerance for discrimination which is a good thing but discriminatory abortions continue to be a problem.”
Reliable data on the issue is hard to find. However, one study found that approximately 67% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted in the U.S.
Pro-choice advocates are unmoved by the argument and explain that reliable data on the number of discriminatory abortions is difficult to find because the data simply isn't being collected.
“I think that’s why you can’t find it because it doesn’t exist,” said Amanda West who serves as the director of government relations for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. “These bills disingenuously use discrimination as a reason to ban abortion while doing nothing to actually address discrimination.”
In practice, Marnon said, the bills rely on doctors performing abortions based on discrimination to report themselves.
“They would probably be inclined not to report that,” she said.
Calley explained that the actual enforcement or verification of discriminatory abortions would “admittedly be tricky.”
“But the conversation around the value of these individuals is just as important,” Calley said.
West and Planned Parenthood of Michigan maintain that targeted abortion bans don’t accomplish their stated mission.
“Bans like these, that are banning abortion based on a reason behind that person’s decision has never been about decreasing discrimination or promoting equality,” she said. “These bans are part of a larger campaign to stigmatize and ban abortion outright.”
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