Last year, anti-abortion advocates sought to ban sex-selective abortion. Now lawmakers in several states are trying a new but related tack: restricting abortion because of fetal abnormality. Sponsors of the bills argue that they’re necessary to prevent eugenics, while critics worry they tamper with doctor-patient confidentiality and even force women to give birth to children who can’t survive.
Members of the North Dakota House introduced such a bill last week — it would charge any doctor who performs an abortion for the reason of either the fetus’s sex or a genetic abnormality with a Class A misdemeanor, which can mean a year in prison. In Virginia, legislation introduced earlier this month would have barred Medicaid from covering abortions in the case of fetal abnormality — it was narrowly defeated in committee. And Indiana has introduced a bill that makes providing abortion in the case of fetal abnormality a Class C felony, a class punishable by up to eight years in prison.
“This chilling slide toward eugenics — specifically, eliminating persons with certain hereditary characteristics — must be confronted,” the legal team of Americans United for Life said in a statement to BuzzFeed Shift. AUL has produced model legislation to help legislators enact fetal-abnormality abortion bans. The group, whose model legislation was responsible for nearly a third of the abortion restrictions passed at the state level last year, says it has worked with Indiana lawmakers on their bill, and has also been in contact with state legislators in Colorado about the issue.
There are no nationwide studies on what percentage of women choose to abort after getting a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, one of the most commonly diagnosed fetal abnormalities; localized studies have put the rate as high as 92%, but in more anti-abortion areas of the country, it may be much lower.
Critics fear what the legislation could mean for women, families, and doctors. Renee Stromme of the North Dakota Women’s Network, who testified against the bill there, said she’d since heard from a woman whose fetal twins shared a blood supply, meaning the parents had to terminate one or let both die. The proposed bill would have forced her to lose both. And some genetic abnormalities, she notes, end up being fatal at or soon after birth. “These are very difficult and personal decisions the legislature is trying to make for families,” she says.
Stromme also says if the law does pass, doctors might be afraid of giving women full information about their pregnancies, for fear of prosecution. And she’s concerned the bill has a good chance of passing, especially since it’s been proposed along with five other North Dakota bills restricting abortion, meaning abortion-rights advocates’ energies will be divided among many campaigns.
Ayelet Waldman, a writer who had an abortion when she found out her fetus had Down syndrome, says legislators who seek to ban abortions for fetal abnormality are suffering from a failure of empathy. She says, “After I had my second-trimester abortion, I was in a support group for women who had undergone the experience, and I would say a third of the women in that room were pro-life.” Her message to anti-abortion lawmakers: “I have sat in a room with women like them who have made decisions like mine, and I know what they would do. And the vast majority would choose to terminate.”
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- brendac2 Fetal Abnormality Is The Next Frontie... and thinks it’s Fail & WTF
- meganr21 thinks Fetal Abnormality Is The Next Frontie... is WTF
At “day” 22 the fetus’s heart beats.. at week “10” the fetus is able to breathe the amniotic fluid. By the end of third week the child’s backbone spinal column and nervous system are forming. The liver, kidneys and intestines begin to take shape. So yes the fetus CAN feel pain…
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My mom was ‘forced’ to have an abortion in the 80s due to complications of the fetus’ health due to an experimental form of birth control she was on when she got pregnant, the doctors insisted to her that the child would be born dead if no t severely deformed and live maybe a few weeks, no one should be able to take that choice from a mother.
- Pack thinks Fetal Abnormality Is The Next Frontie... is OMG
I think a woman should be allowed to eat any unfit child born to them. Like a hamster! No seriously though. I don’t know why we think it’s okay to force people to lead short painful pointless lives in and out of serious medical care. I don’t care at what trimester. 3rd or 203rd.
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Right, because they only care if the kid’s born — they don’t care about the rest of its life, they don’t care that it’ll end up in a government home or subsidized job, they don’t care that it’ll actually end up costing its parents and taxpayers exuberant amounts of money just to keep it alive. No, none of that is important in the eyes of these people. All that matters is that the mother pops out that baby whether she wants to or not. Empathy? Compassion? What’s that.
No, that means that the choice to bring that child into the world rests in the hands of the parents and no one else. Disabled children require a lot of attention, medical care and money. If a couple can’t provide any of that, would you not agree that it would be cruel to have the baby anyway? It can’t be properly taken care of, the government is constantly cutting social aid for parents with disabled children, and it would probably suffer. I view that as cruel to both the parents and the child.
I think if these orgs that help write these bills and the legislators that pass them should have to raise these children and pay for their well being for a lifetime. They have no clue beyond the womb. And they take to responsibility for these children beyond the womb either.