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May 29, 2012

Latest Anti-Choice Attack in the House Takes Politics to a New Low

Anti-choice politicians who voted against prenatal care, equal pay, and contraceptive coverage are behind sex-based attack on choice

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, anti-choice leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have scheduled a vote on a bill, H.R.3541, introduced by anti-choice Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that, contrary to its backers’ claims, does nothing to end sex discrimination or gender disparity.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has long opposed reproductive coercion in any form—including societal pressures to have a child of a particular sex, but the Franks bill is a divisive, unworkable measure. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act could subject a doctor to up to five years in prison for failing to determine if sex is a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. The bill also imposes the same criminal penalty on any person who accompanies a woman across state lines to seek such services. In addition, the bill threatens any medical professional who does not report even a suspected case of sex-selection abortion with a one-year prison sentence, as well as the loss of federal funds for any facility in which a sex-selection abortion is provided.

“The Franks bill exploits the very real problems of sex discrimination and gender inequity while failing to offer any genuine solutions that would eliminate disparities in health-care access and information,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Rather than attacking a woman’s right to choose, lawmakers with a sincere interest in addressing gender bias should support policies that work to combat the bias and stereotypes that continue to plague our society. This alternative approach would unify – not divide – our country and could achieve important advances without taking away any woman’s right to make her own personal, private medical decisions.”

Keenan also said Rep. Franks and many of the other lawmakers supporting this bill have voted against the equal-pay bill; voted not to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program; and backed efforts to cut funding for prenatal care and domestic and international family-planning programs that improve women’s ability to get basic health-care services.

“Many of the bill’s supporters have rejected equal pay for women and have tried to slash funding for programs that serve women and children,” Keenan said. “Their hypocrisy represents cynical politics at their worst.”

Keenan said the bill’s supporters might also attempt to link this legislation with the recent case of Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident who recently moved to the United States, in a disingenuous attempt to conflate the issues of sex selection and forced abortion. In fact, Chen's work to stop reproductive coercion in his home country is a value shared by the pro-choice community. Many pro-choice organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, have long been publicly supportive of Chen.

Keenan also said the vote on this legislation is yet another example of how the anti-choice leaders in the House are out of touch with the country’s values and priorities. In 2011, the House held eight votes on choice-related issues (the highest number since 2000). Thus far, anti-choice House leaders have lined up no fewer than five separate bills with anti-abortion provisions for floor action this session.

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