Washington state is among a handful of states this year where lawmakers are seeking to ban abortions sought because of the gender of a fetus, something abortion-rights groups say is a veiled effort to expand restrictions to abortion in the state.
OLYMPIA — Washington state is among a handful of states this year where lawmakers are seeking to ban abortions sought because of the gender of a fetus, something abortion-rights groups say is a veiled effort to expand restrictions to abortion in the state.
Senate Bill 6612, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center, would make it a Class C felony, carrying a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, for a doctor to knowingly perform or attempt an abortion sought solely because of the sex of the fetus. A physician would also face losing his or her medical license.
The bill, which has a public hearing Tuesday morning, notes that the United States, along with other counties, “has petitioned the United National General Assembly to declare sex-selection abortion a crime against women” and that India, Great Britain and China have all taken steps to end the practice.
“The victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelmingly female,” the bill reads. “Women are a vital part of our society and culture and possess the same fundamental human rights as men.”
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Rivers said she introduced the bill because several other states have already banned sex-selective abortions and she wanted to “have a collegial discussion about it.”
“I don’t think this bill will go anywhere, but I would like to keep the profile raised on this very important issue,” she wrote in a text message.
Abortion-rights groups argue that sex-selective abortion is not an issue in the United States. Rachel Berkson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington called the Senate bill “a Trojan horse to ban abortion.”
“Of course, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington has long opposed and will continue to oppose reproductive coercion in any form, and that includes societal pressure to have a child of a particular sex,” Rachel Berkson, the group’s executive director, said Monday.
But Berkson said that it’s impossible for doctors to prove the reasons for why a woman is seeking an abortion, and she said she believes it could cause doctors to stereotype women from countries where sex-selection abortion is a known practice.
“We think this would unfairly harm them and stand in the way of their access,” she said.
Seven states currently ban sex-selective abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights-advocacy group. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, at least four other states, in addition to Washington, have introduced similar measures this year: Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and Missouri.
Even if the Washington state measure progresses out of the Republican-controlled Senate, it is not likely to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled House.