An Arkansas House panel has approved a bill on Thursday which would prohibit doctors from performing abortions if the woman is seeking the procedure solely to avoid having a boy or a girl.
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee passed House Bill 1434 in a voice vote. The measure, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, will now move to the full state House for consideration.
Under the legislation, doctors would be required to ask the pregnant women if she knows the sex of the unborn child before performing an abortion. If the woman does, the doctor would have to inform the woman that it is illegal to have an abortion based solely on gender, said Collins, as reported by The State. The unborn child's sex can usually be identified at the mother's 20th-week checkup.
"Today's technology does not allow sex to be determined very early in a pregnancy," Collins remarked. "Viability, abortion timelines, etc. that exist today, and when sex is determinable are such that it would be almost impossible for this to be a massive issue in the United States today," he added.
Doctors who are found to be in violation of the law could face a fine of up to $2,500 and be jailed for up to a year. The physician's medical license could also be suspended or revoked, and he/she would be subject to civil liability, according to The Gurdon Times.
The bill would also require the physician to obtain the woman's medical records related to her pregnancy if she knows the unborn child's gender. Collins said that he included the requirement in the bill because records could be helpful in assessing whether the woman has repeatedly obtained sex-selective abortions.
ACLU Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar expressed her opposition to the bill, claiming that it is unconstitutional.
"Any legislation that bans abortion before the point of viability is unconstitutional, plain and simple," she said. "There is very good potential for litigation because of this burden on women obtaining abortions that they want for whatever reason," she continued.
The Arkansas affiliate of Planned Parenthood also raised objections against the bill. Ashley Wright, the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said that the legislation "would interfere with open, honest communication between doctors and patients."
Arkansas would become the eighth state to ban sex-selective abortions if the bill is signed into law. The seven other states that have similar bans are Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.