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Susan B. Anthony Liked Abortion? How The PRENDA Bill Targets Black, Asian Women

What if I told you that there was going to be a law that would prevent anyone from aborting a child because of its sex or race? Your gut reaction would probably be favorable – even if you’re prochoice you probably don’t think the Ob-Gyn’s “it’s a girl” proclamation is reason enough to terminate a pregnancy. But what if I told you that the matter wasn’t so simple and that there were some potentially negative and harmful repercussions if this policy were to become the law of the land?

U.S. Representative, Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced legislation in December called – and I’m not kidding here – the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass* Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act or PRENDA (H.R. 3541). PRENDA seeks to ban sex-selection or race-based abortions by prohibiting or financing such procedures. According to Rep. Franks, “the woman seeking an abortion is exempted from prosecution, while abortion providers are held to account” under the act.

Instead of protecting women and children like the act purports to do, PRENDA poses a danger to women’s health and ignores the underlying factors that influence a woman’s decision to choose abortion. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, PRENDA would:

  • • Make any abortion performed after an ultrasound a potential criminal offense merely because the woman happened to learn the sex of the fetus. The bill would discourage women from seeking prenatal ultrasounds and discourage doctors from providing them – putting women and their pregnancies at greater risk.
  • Permit so-called “sex-selective abortions” if necessary to save the life or preserve the health of the fetus – but it makes no such exception for the life of the woman. The termination of a pregnancy to save the fetus is permitted; a termination of a pregnancy to save a woman’s life is not.

So why did this bill go before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution? Let Franks and anti-choice leaders tell it, it’s because of the disproportionally high rate of abortions among black women and abortions performed in the name of son preference in some Asian communities. Translation: First, that Black women are selfish, irresponsible, and incapable of making reproductive decisions on their own behalf. Second, that Asian women mindlessly reproduce “son preference” and bring “dangerous values” into the country (h/t Abortion Gang).

Sound familiar? Doesn’t it call to mind those “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb” billboards? This is one more in a long line of attempts to bait the black community into supporting anti-choice efforts. If you have a minute, check out the video of Miriam Yeung, speaking up for women of color and representing both the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and Brooklyn. It’s worth noting that Yeung was the only woman of color to speak at the PRENDA hearing.

Although Franks claims that PRENDA is designed to protect us, the reality is that the bill would make it harder for black women, Asian women, and women in interracial relationships to access safe and legal abortion services. I won’t be fooled by fancy, surface language or the names of a couple of prominent historical figures. Neither should you.

*Did they really throw Fredrick Douglass’ name in there, though? Shout out to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the longest-serving African American congressperson, who was just as confused by the bill’s name (at 9:40). At another part of the hearing, Conyers told Franks, “I’ve studied Frederick Douglass more than you. And I’ve never heard or read about him saying anything about prenatal nondiscrimination.” Word.

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