December 05, 2011 4:31 pm ET - by Brian Powell
This spring, the state of Arizona passed a controversial bill that "made it a crime to perform an abortion because of the sex or race of the fetus." Last week, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) brought his home state's new law to the federal level by introducing H.R. 3541, the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011" (PRENDA), a bill almost identical to the Arizona law. Franks used his leverage as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution to immediately organize a hearing on the bill, scheduled for tomorrow, and he will buttress his contentious legislation with testimony from Steven Mosher, an anti-abortion ideologue with a history of ethical problems
Opponents of the Arizona version of the bill argued that it would impose an unnecessary new obstacle for women choosing to have an abortion and impose serious risks for doctors who offer abortions. Salon's Irin Carmon wrote on the Arizona bill for Jezebel in February:
The Arizona House has passed a bill that would prohibit abortions performed on the basis of race or sex. Its sponsor, Rep. Steve Montenegro, "was adamant that the bill had less to do with a woman's legal right to have an abortion and, instead, was a measure to prohibit bigotry and discrimination," according to the Arizona Capitol Times.
Republicans defending the bill from Democrats who called it a bill "in search of a problem" claimed this refuted any suggestion that "we are not here to protect the minority population." In other words, we're not racist, we just think only women carrying non-white babies — presumably many of which are women of color themselves? — should have their choices legislated extra-hard. Is sex or race-selective abortion actually an issue in the United States? Who cares about the facts again, including the very limited evidence of the existence of sex selective abortion in the United States (most abortions take place before the sex can even be detected) or the underlying socioeconomic factors that lead to the high abortion rate among African-American women?
The real-life issue with the bill is that, should it advance to law, it would require women to justify or explain their reasons for terminating a pregnancy, and seek the approval of some outside body to do so.
PRENDA imposes a maximum criminal penalty of five years in prison for abortion providers prosecuted under the law, and it provides for a civil cause of action and remedies — including punitive damages — to a number of parties, including the father of the fetus and the parent of any minors who seek the procedure.
House Republicans plan to counter concerns about the bill with testimony from Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute, an organization that describes itself as "pro-life" and is committed to the dubious goal of "expos[ing] the myth of overpopulation." Expecting objective, non-partisan testimony from him will be difficult — Mosher's writing has been published on numerous occasions by the National Organization for Marriage's Ruth Institute, an outlet that frequently pushes anti-LGBT propaganda and hate speech, and in 2003, Mosher argued against sending taxpayer money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, calling it "The Global Fund for Abortion, Prostitution, and the Homosexual Agenda."
Mosher is also an ethical landmine who lacks any serious professional credibility. He was ejected from both China and from his doctorate program at Stanford University, and he has been criticized by the scientific community for endangering the lives of the Chinese citizens he was studying. The U.S. Committee for United Nations Population Fund produced a report detailing Mosher's troubled past:
As a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, Mosher repeatedly violated the rules of China as a new host country for Western academic researchers and was ejected from the country in 1981.
Mosher does not hold a doctorate in China studies, population studies or, for that matter, any other field of research, and yet is often touted as an "expert," a sociologist, or an anthropologist by proponents and interviewers. Stanford University expelled Mosher in 1983 for "illegal and unethical conduct" prior to the completion of his doctoral degree.
Mosher, who claims to value human life, seriously jeopardized the lives of many Chinese peasants in 1979 and 1980. As part of his "studies" in Mainland China, Mosher took photos of semi-nude Chinese women in Guangdong Province allegedly being prepared to receive abortions. These photos were then published - with no effort made to conceal the women's identities - in a mainstream Taiwanese newsmagazine the following year, putting these women at considerable risk of repercussion from the Chinese government authorities.
In addition to Mosher, the hearing's witnesses include Steven Aden, of the anti-gay Christian advocacy group Alliance Defense Fund; Edwin Black, an author of books on the Holocaust and white supremacist eugenics; and Miriam Yeung, from the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, who is presumably the Democrats' witness.
In other words, Mr. Franks does not appear ready to present anything resembling an objective, fact-friendly dialogue at tomorrow's event — serious family-planning policy advocates beware.
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