H.R. 3541: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011

H.R. 3541

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011

Date
May 29, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, May 30, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3541, the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval.  The bill was originally introduced on December 1, 2011, by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Bill Summary

 H.R. 3541 would prohibit discriminatory abortions motivated by the sex of the unborn child. The legislation would make it a federal crime to perform an abortion knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of that child.  In addition, the bill would make it a federal crime to use force to intentionally intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection abortion or accept funds for the performance of a sex-selection abortion.  The bill would also make it a crime to transport a woman into the United States or across a State line for the purpose of obtaining a sex-selection abortion. Under the bill, anyone violating this act would be subject to a fine under this title or imprisonment of no more than 5 years, or both. Under the bill, no penalties would be imposed upon the woman seeking the abortion.

The bill would also provide women upon whom an abortion has been performed or attempted in violation of this bill with the ability to seek relief in civil court against any person who engaged in the violation. In addition, would also allow the father of an unborn child who is the subject of an abortion performed or in violation of the bill, or a maternal grandparent of the unborn child if the pregnant woman is an unemancipated minor, to seek relief in a civil court unless the pregnancy resulted from the plaintiff’s criminal conduct or the plaintiff consented to the abortion. The bill would also authorize the courts to provide injunctive relief by barring an abortion provider from performing or attempting to perform further abortions that may be based solely on the sex of the child. The bill would also require courts to withhold the identity of the woman, upon whom an abortion was performed, from court documents in civil or criminal cases involving banned abortions.

 

Background

According to the Committee on the Judiciary, there are now four separate studies from academic institutions which demonstrate the use of sex-selection in the U.S., including Columbia University, whose 2008 report found that there is “strong son bias” within selected American communities as revealed in census data and “clear evidence of sex-selection, most likely at the prenatal stage.”

According to the Committee, these studies found that the victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelmingly female, and most sex-selection abortions are later-term abortions, likely occurring after the child becomes “pain-capable.” The Committee also states that “The United States is believed to be the only advanced country that does not restrict sex-selection through law. Congress has repeatedly condemned China in official resolutions for its policies that encourage sex-selection, yet Congress has failed to take any action to prevent this type of discrimination from occurring within this country.”

The American medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the President's Council on Bioethics have condemned sex-selection, according to the Committee. In 2007, the United States spearheaded a resolution to condemn sex-selection at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, yet there is no law prohibiting the practice in the United States, as in other member countries. United Nations affiliates have made repeated public statements that aborting a girl child is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses and the most extreme form of violence against women. According to the Committee, a 2006 Zogby International poll of 30,000 Americans showed that 86% of the American public desires a law to ban sex-selection abortion.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), implementing H.R. 3541 would have no significant cost to the federal government.  Enacting the bill could affect direct spending and revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.  However, CBO estimates that any effects would be insignificant for each year.