Three Republican state senators have introduced a bill to outlaw abortions based on the fetus's sex. Unlike Republicans' other abortion-related nonsense this year, this bill is set to get a hearing and possible committee vote.
Under this bill, doctors who were found to have performed an abortion knowing "the pregnant woman [was] seeking the abortion solely on account of the sex of the unborn child" could face felony charges, civil penalties, and loss of their medical license.
Bans on so-called "sex-selective abortions"—which are in place in seven other states—may not sound that unreasonable until you think about them for about ten seconds. Aside from questions about whether this is even a real phenomenon in the United States that needs to be addressed (it's not), how is a ban like this one possibly enforceable? The bill makes no mention of how a doctor is supposed to know why his or her patient is getting the abortion or how authorities would enforce such a restriction.
The three co-sponsors are Ann Rivers (R-La Center), Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), and Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way). Two of them, Padden and Miloscia, are also co-sponsors of the so-called "bathroom bill" currently moving through the state senate. Rivers, the prime sponsor, declined an interview with The Stranger through a spokesperson. I haven't heard back from the other two.
Rivers' bill tries to make the case against sex-selective abortions on feminist grounds, saying that worldwide sex-selective abortions are used to favor male fetuses. Among the reasons society needs a gender balance, according to Rivers' bill: "A large population of young, unmarried men can be a cause of increased violence and militancy within a society."
In fact, introducing bills like this is a strategy to discourage doctors from providing abortions and target women of color. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute explains:
Sex-selective abortions—that is, abortions performed because of the predicted sex of the fetus—occur most frequently where there is a strong gender bias that manifests in a preference for sons. In some countries, such as those in East and South Asia, the widespread practice of sex selection has resulted in skewed sex ratios with a higher number of boys than girls at birth.
In contrast, in the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from these areas—or anywhere else—are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country. Bans on sex-selective abortions place a burden on providers, who are forced to not only question all women’s reasons for seeking an abortion, but to also second-guess and stigmatize Asian-American women and communities. While disguised as a means to eliminate gender discrimination, these laws make abortion less accessible; they do not prohibit other sex selection methods, such as sperm sorting or preimplantation genetic diagnostics.
In a statement by e-mail this morning, Planned Parenthood spokesperson Erik Houser said the bill was another in a series of "agenda items so extreme that Donald Trump is probably taking note."
"Holding hearings on backwards, ignorant bills like abortion restrictions and transgender bathroom discrimination," Houser said, "[is] embarrassing not just for our legislature, but for the entire state of Washington and everyone in it."
Rivers' abortion bill is set to get a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans still haven't scheduled a hearing on a bill requiring insurance providers to provide a year's worth of birth control at a time, despite bipartisan support for that effort, including support from Senator Rivers.
Like other Republican efforts, this sex-selection abortion bill is likely to get blocked by the Washington State House's (very slim) Democratic majority. But it's part of a trend that will worsen if progressives don't pay attention to legislative elections. The entire house and much of the senate will be up for reelection this fall. Yet another reason to register to vote.
This post has been updated.