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New Florida bill would outlaw gender- and race-based abortions

With the beginning of session only days away, Florida legislators have been busy filing a slew of anti-abortion bills. Add yet another to the list: a measure outlawing race- and gender-based abortions. The bill was filed by state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood.

House Bill 1327, or the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act,” would make it a crime to have an abortion “that it is sought based on sex or race of child or race of parent of that child.” A similar bill was filed in the U.S. House by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., last month and became law in Arizona last year.

According to a summary of the bill, it:

  • Requires person performing termination to first sign affidavit stating that he or she is not performing termination because of child’s sex or race and has no knowledge that pregnancy being terminated is because of child’s sex or race;
  • Prohibits performing or inducing termination knowing that it is sought based on sex or race of child or race of parent of that child, using force or threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for purpose of coercing sex-selection or race-selection termination, and soliciting or accepting moneys to finance sex-selection or race-selection termination;
  • Provides for injunctions;
  • Provides for civil actions by certain persons; authorizes civil fines against physicians & other health professionals who knowingly fail to report known violations; provides that woman on whom sex-selection or race-selection termination is performed is not subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability.

Plakon says he did not file the bill to address any “Florida-specific” problem, but rather to address a “creeping problem” with gender- and race-based abortions worldwide. He says “we shouldn’t wait” until there is a rampant problem in order to address this.

“This is wrong,” he says. “We need to make sure this doesn’t creep into Florida from other countries.”

Plakon does, however, concede that it is hard to prove that gender- or race-based abortions are happening “on a micro-level,” which would make this law somewhat hard to enforce unless a woman were to mention the reasoning behind her abortion.

“If she volunteers that information,” Plakon says, “it would put the burden on the abortionist to not provide the abortion.”

There is no denying this is happening worldwide, Plakon says. “And you could argue that this country is a safe haven for this sort of thing.”

“At least we are doing something,” he says.

Reproductive rights and justice activists have long condemned bills like Plakon’s since Frank first introduced his measure the same week President Obama was elected.

Loretta Ross, the president of SisterSong — a reproductive justice collective for women of color — says there is no evidence that supports the need for such a bill. She believes these bills are a “blatant attempt for southern Republicans to look like they are champions of racial justice,” while they actually attacking women’s rights.

“The question to ask would be: Do you champion [racial minorities and women] once they are here?” Loretta says.

This sort of legislation has been the result of a concerted effort among anti-abortion activists to link abortion to racist aims. Groups have been touting the “black genocide” conspiracy in an effort to convince African-American communities to oppose abortion. In some cases, these arguments have taken root in the African-American community.

Ross says that painting women as propagators of genocide in this way is an “attack on women’s dignity.”

“Ultimately,” Ross says, “this shows contempt for women.”

As of now, the Legislature has filed eight anti-abortion/reproductive rights bill for the session starting next week — nine if/when this bill picks up a Senate sponsor.

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