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Public Statements

Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. NADLER. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the so-called ``Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.''

Today, the Republican majority continues its war on women in a new and creative way, by attempting to couch legislation that would destroy women's fundamental constitutional rights as a women's rights law. It is cynical, but creative.

Trying to destroy women's constitutional rights, and pretending that it is somehow being pro-woman, plays well to the far-right wing base, but does nothing to help American families get on their feet and put people back to work.

This bill criminalizes abortion prior to viability. It makes pre-viability abortions a crime under certain circumstances, a flagrantly unconstitutional provision under Roe v. Wade.

Under this bill, a relative who disagreed with a woman's choice would be able to sue a doctor simply by alleging that the woman had an impermissible motive. The doctor would face years of litigation at great expense. A relative could even obtain an injunction blocking an abortion from going forward merely by alleging that the abortion is being done for the purposes of sex selection. While the matter is being litigated, the pregnancy would go forward so that, regardless of the merits, a woman would be compelled by a court injunction to proceed with her pregnancy against her will, perhaps to have an abortion at a much later stage with a much more mature fetus.

Any clinic employee who suspected--merely suspected--that a woman's motives ran afoul of this law would have a legal obligation, under penalty of prison, to report that suspicion to law enforcement.

How would this affect the basic practice of medicine?

H.R. 3541 would force health care providers to inquire into women's reasons for seeking abortion services. Physicians would have to consider whether women seeking routine non-abortion services, such as determining the sex of the fetus, might then use that information in deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.

Given the severe civil and criminal penalties in this bill, doctors would be forced to police their patients, read their minds, and conceal information from them. The failure to do so would put medical professionals at risk of prosecution and lawsuits.

This bill is facially unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has held, beginning with Roe v. Wade and in Casey and subsequent cases, that the decision of whether to have a child or whether to end a pregnancy is a private one. Up until the point of viability, the government may not make that decision for a woman. Following viability, the government may regulate or bar an abortion, except when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.

The preference for male children is a real, if limited, phenomenon in the United States. Some women face familial and community preference to have male children, and that pressure can increase with each subsequent birth. But this bill does nothing to help those women.

This bill cites the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as urging governments to prevent sex-selective abortions, but it ignores the concerns of those who work on this problem, such as the U.N. Population Fund, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the U.N. Children's Fund, the U.N. Women, and the World Health Organization, that abortion restrictions are not the solution because they put women's health and lives in jeopardy and violate women's human and reproductive rights.

Where is the legislation providing women with the means to achieve independence so that they are not subject to community and family pressures? My Republican colleagues opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that would have done just that. We all had to watch the charade recently where Republicans pretended they weren't going after the Violence Against Women Act with a meat-ax. Where is the support for family planning services so we have fewer unplanned pregnancies and, therefore, fewer abortions? Where is the commitment to maternal and child health programs?

But all this costs money, it won't do anything to undermine Roe v. Wade, and it doesn't play well in the world of abortion politics.

I urge the Members of this House to reject this cynical, dishonest, and hypocritical legislation.

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