Limiting Abortion to Healthy Fetuses?

Mark Twain once groused that “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” Ohio has proven once again that no one’s freedom is safe when conservative politicians are up for reelection.

Within a few weeks, Ohio’s legislature is expected to criminalize any abortion if the pregnant woman’s intent is to avoid having a baby with Down syndrome.

Of the six million pregnancies each year in the U.S., fewer than 20,000 are carrying a fetus with Down syndrome. Some 2/3 of those pregnancies will miscarry, leaving a maximum of some 6,000 Down’s pregnancies in America continuing to term (and thus potentially to abortion). But even assuming that all 20,000 Down’s pregnancies are viable, Ohio (with 3.6% of America’s population) would have about 720 of them.

That’s what this law does—it criminalizes abortion for these 720 pregnancies.

It’s an election year after all. Governor John Kasich is running for president, and 2/3 of the legislature is endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee.

Of course, Ohio isn’t the only grandstanding U.S. legislature. In 2013, North Dakota criminalized abortion because of fetal genetic anomalies, including Down syndrome. Seven states ban abortions if the reason is gender selection; Arizona’s law even forbids abortion when the doctor knows “that the abortion is being sought based on the sex or race of the child, or the race of a parent of that child.”

Arizona passed this law without a single example of gender-selection or race-selection abortion anywhere in the state. The law prevents something that doesn’t exist. So one imagines Arizona criminalizing abortions taking place on February 30; banning abortions if the father is Elvis; and not allowing abortions if the mother is married to a kangaroo.

Supporters of the Arizona race-selection abortion law note that a high percentage of abortions are being sought by minority women, who are disproportionately poor. Apparently, they don’t realize that reducing health care options, sex education, and contraceptive availability for poor people leads to more unplanned pregnancy. Anti-choice legislators are against abortion almost as much as they’re against reducing unplanned pregnancy. Maybe they don’t know where babies come from.

The Arizona law raises an interesting question. If a Hispanic couple wants an abortion, will they be challenged as wanting an abortion because the fetus is Hispanic? After all, it’s not a White, Black, or Asian fetus they’d be aborting. And what about a White couple who wants an abortion—when they know darn well the baby they don’t want is White? Are these “abortion because of race?”

Arizona, Ohio, and other states can, of course, make the experience of a simple abortion as miserable as possible for residents who have the nerve to pursue a legal medical procedure. And states can throw a fit and just invent reasons that people can’t have abortions.

Sex-selective abortion has indeed created complications in India and China, both dramatically different cultures from America’s. Some American legislators seem to have their states confused with these two ancient societies, historically tormented by radical gender- and racial beliefs.

Ohio and other state legislatures, to their eternal frustration, can’t simply make abortion illegal. Their phony “conservative” Republicans want to shrink “Big Government” just small enough to fit under people’s bedroom doors.

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