RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina state lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban abortions based on race or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
House Bill 453 was introduced to the General Assembly this week. It’s known as the Human Non-Discrimination and No Eugenics Act.
“Eugenics is defined as the study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics. In other words, characteristics that are desirable,” said Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, an anti-abortion organization lobbying to pass the bill.
If passed, it would ban girls and women from getting abortions because of the unborn baby’s race, sex, or a screening that indicates Down syndrome, a condition that can cause physical and mental disabilities.
Fitzgerald explained, “Our goal here is to create a state where the state has a compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a modern-day tool of eugenics.”
The bill would also require the doctor performing an abortion after 16 weeks to submit a report to the state containing the measurements of the unborn child, photos of the ultrasound, and if the race, sex, or a presumptive Down syndrome diagnosis were detected beforehand. The doctor would also be required to sign the report under oath confirming the abortion isn’t for those reasons.
“Studies have shown that these screenings can be inaccurate up to 50% of the time. So, whether they’re inaccurate or not, we believe children with Down syndrome deserve to be born,” said Fitzgerald.
While pro-life organizations claim the bill is aimed at preventing discrimination, pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood believe it’s a disguise.
“This bill is just another part of the strategy we have seen over the past few years to chip away at abortion access in our state without, I might add, doing anything to address the underlying issues that anti-abortion politicians use to justify the bans including ableism, racism and gender inequality,” said Susanna Birdsong, Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
State lawmakers have passed a series of abortion laws in recent years. There are abortion clinics in nine counties across the state — New Hanover, Cumberland, Wake, Durham, Orange, Guilford, Forsyth, Mecklenberg and Buncombe.
“Right now, abortion is not available in 91 counties across the state,” said Birdsong. “So yes, it is only an option in nine counties, which means that a lot of women in North Carolina are traveling in order to access this healthcare.”
According to the latest data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), there were 28,450 abortions reported in 2019. 23,495 abortions were provided to residents, 4,955 were provided to people who traveled out of state, according to NCDHHS.
“I just want to underscore that this is a decision that one in four women in the U.S. will make by the time they’re in their 40s,” Birdsong said. “It is a common medical procedure, and bills like this further stigmatize it and put it out of reach.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice organization, at least 43 states have introduced 384 bills that would either ban or restrict access to abortion. North Carolina lawmakers have introduced at least five abortion-related bills this legislative session. Some would expand access to abortion, while others like HB543, would limit it.
“We are preparing for this to be a bill that they [the General Assembly] move,” said Birdsong. “And when we think about all of the other priorities that our state is dealing with right now, all of the other very real crises in this state, it seems their priorities are misplaced.”
If the bill does pass both the House and Senate chambers, Birdsong said Planned Parenthood will attempt to have the bill vetoed.