Statement of the Honorable John Conyers for the Hearing on H.R. 4924, the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016"
Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 4924, the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016,” is the latest attempt to erode the constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago.
Among other things, the bill would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if she or he knows that the procedure is being done because of the race or sex of the fetus or the race of one of the parents, regardless of viability.
As I noted in the 112th Congress, when we last considered this bill, the bill is deeply flawed for a number of reasons.
To begin with, the bill is patently unconstitutional because it bans certain pre-viability abortions.
Roe is clear that a woman has an absolute constitutional right to have an abortion prior to fetal viability.
This legislation is simply yet another deliberate attempt by anti-choice activists to undermine and ultimately overturnRoe.
In addition, this measure has nothing to do with civil rights.
For instance, the bill’s proponents offer no evidence that women are choosing race-selective abortions.
Indeed, these proponents do not even bother to make the claim that African-American women, for example, choose to abort their fetuses because the fetus or one of the parents is African-American.
They do not make this argument because it is absurd on its face. Yet, that is exactly the type of conduct that the bill supposedly prohibits.
The bill’s proponents try to sidestep this obvious flaw by arguing instead that the bill is needed because abortions are disproportionately common in communities of color.
But to the extent abortions are performed disproportionately in minority communities, the disparity points to broader socioeconomic inequalities that banning abortion will not solve.
The African-American and Hispanic communities are underserved when it comes to prenatal, maternal, and child health care services.
This lack of access to reproductive health care results in African-American women being 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
And, barriers to effective contraceptives and effective sex education, among other things, leads to the unintended pregnancy rate for African-American women being 67% versus 40% for white women.
Minority communities lack access to adequate health care, yet rather than addressing these disparities, the bill only reinforces them through its criminal penalties, which will create a chilling effect on doctors serving these communities.
Finally, I reject in the strongest possible terms the slander that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are inherently racist.
Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of high-quality health care for women, serving 2.7 million Americans a year.
It provides many critical health services, such as annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, contraception, and the study of sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. strongly supported the work of Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, and emphasized the importance of access to family planning resources for African-Americans.
On accepting the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood in 1966, Dr. King stated:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist—a nonviolent resister. . . .[African-Americans] have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
I concur with Dr. King and reject the sponsors’ preposterous and offensive argument that legalized abortion and its providers are racist.