LITTLE ROCK — A House committee on Thursday advanced a bill to prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion on a woman if he or she knows the woman is seeking an abortion solely because of the sex of the unborn child.
In a voice vote, the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1434 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. The bill goes to the House.
Under the bill, before a doctor could perform an abortion he or she would be required to ask the woman if she knows the sex of her unborn child. If the woman answers that she does, the doctor would be required to request the woman’s medical records relating to her pregnancy.
The doctor would be prohibited from performing an abortion on the woman until “reasonable time and effort” has been spent to obtain the records.
A doctor who performs an abortion on a woman despite knowing that she is seeking an abortion solely because of the sex of the unborn child would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
The doctor also could have his or her medical license suspended or revoked and would be subject to civil liability. A lawsuit could be filed against the doctor by the woman who received the abortion or her parent or guardian if she is a minor or incompetent.
In an interview Thursday, Collins said he believes some sex-selective abortions are occurring in the United States, particularly among immigrants from cultures that place a high importance on having male offspring.
“As we have more individuals coming into our country from different cultures, particularly cultures in Southeast Asia where this is more prevalent, we have the potential for it to be more prevalent (in the U.S.),” he said.
Collins said he included the language in the bill about requesting a woman’s medical records because the records could be helpful in assessing whether a woman has repeatedly received sex-selective abortions.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said Thursday the bill is unconstitutional.
“Any legislation that bans abortion before the point of viability is unconstitutional, plain and simple,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said states cannot bar a woman from obtaining an abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or able to live outside the womb.
Sklar also said the bill proposes unwarranted intrusions into what should be a trusting, confidential relationship between a doctor and a patient; seeks to delay women from receiving abortions; and is not in the best interest of women’s health.