RALEIGH — It would be illegal for doctors to perform abortions because of the sex of the fetus under a bill filed Wednesday in the state House.
The legislation would allow doctors and other health care providers to be sued for damages and fined heavily if they perform abortions where gender is a significant factor in the woman’s decision.
It’s uncertain whether there are many women who seek abortions based on gender. But about a dozen other states either are considering or have passed similar bills.
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican who is the bill’s primary co-sponsor, said in an interview there are indications that sex selection is a significant problem. But she said there is a larger question.
“We say there’s sex discrimination in education and in the workforce,” Samuelson said. “How can we say there’s not sex discrimination in abortions?”
Abortion-rights advocates see it differently.
“We know gender discrimination is a real problem,” said Paige Johnson, vice president of external and governmental affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. “We don’t know if there is a problem related to abortion.”
Last May, when a measure to fine or imprison doctors who perform sex-selection abortions failed in the U.S. House, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said it opposed the practice of sex-selection abortions but opposed the proposed bill.
The local affiliate also has a problem with the state bill.
“We oppose any sort of legislation that intrudes on the doctor-parent relationship,” Johnson said. “It requires a doctor to become an investigator, asking questions of a patient in a very suspicious way. It really undermines non-judgmental, high-quality care.”
Under the bill, a pregnant woman, her spouse, parents, siblings, guardian or her own health care provider could sue abortion providers. Doctors would also face stiff fines if they ignore court injunctions against such abortions. Contempt-of-court violations would carry a $10,000 fine for the first offense, a $50,000 fine for the second violation, and a $100,000 fine for each subsequent one.
House Bill 716 has a reasonable chance of advancing as it was filed by Samuelson, who is part of the House GOP leadership. Samuelson and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Emerald Isle, introduced a bill last session that imposed new restrictions on abortions, including a narrated ultrasound exam before the procedure. A federal judge has blocked the ultrasound provision from taking effect.