PRENDA: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

A bill to ban abortions in the U.S. that are based on the race or gender of the fetus. A bill to imprison doctors performing such procedures for up to five years. Common sense, right?

Wrong. PRENDA, the so-called "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act," proposed by anti-abortion activist Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) is being considered today in the House Judiciary Committee. It would have a chilling effect on reproductive choice for every woman in this country.

First, the law is unworkable. It puts the onus on the doctor to know what is in the mind of the woman, and determine why she's taking an action regarding her pregnancy. It forces doctors to somehow decide if a woman is making this choice based on race or sex.

Secondly, if the doctor makes an incorrect decision, they could be held criminally responsible. It is very likely that in order protect themselves, the doctor would decline such legal services, saying, "Better safe than sorry."

Consider this: the woman buys a home kit for $30 at CVS or Walgreens, and finds out the sex of the baby. She goes to the doctor and mentions this, and he refuses to treat her.
Here's another scenario. A woman gets an ultrasound, finds out the sex of the baby, but more tragically, that it has no heartbeat. Then she does what she considers to be the best for her family. Does this mean that the doctor that treats her must go to jail?

Sex selection is a real concern, especially in other countries, but the answer is not PRENDA. In fact, it's been tried before. South Korea banned sex-selective abortion, and it did not work. It drove the practice even further underground, where neighbors, not doctors performed such procedures. It was only when they used a combination of strategies, including advocacy, media campaigns, enacting changes in the law and giving greater economic opportunities to women that the practice became less common.

However, the Republican co-authors of this bill are engaging in blatant stereotyping. They argue that we need this law because immigrants who have come to America from countries such as India and China have these "dangerous values."

First of all, Indian and Chinese immigrants come from all over the world, from countries with many different cultural practices. Some immigrants come to this country searching for the freedom that America offers, to have the family of their dreams, and to give their daughters more opportunity to succeed here.

Stereotyping immigrants will only cause providers to avoid taking minorities as patients, because of the possibility of criminal liability in a decision on reproductive choice.

We must not pass PRENDA, which is unworkable, criminalizes abortion, and will jeopardize women's health by removing even more providers from the system. And, let's be honest here: this isn't really about saving girls and minorities; it's about getting rid of a woman's right to choose.

Instead, we should work together all over the world to address the gender inequity in that contributes to son preference. We should ensure our daughters all over the world have the same opportunities as our sons.