Congressman Nadler Denounces Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) as Violation of Women’s Constitutional Rights and Threat to Access of Supportive Prenatal Care

Apr 14, 2016 Issues: Civil Liberties, Health Care

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Democratic Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice and senior Democratic Member of the Select Panel established by Republicans to attack women’s health, released the following statement as part of a hearing on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 (PRENDA).  Condemning the bill as a violation of women’s constitutional rights, Congressman Nadler warned that PRENDA goes even further in poisoning a woman’s relationship with her doctor and threatening her ability to access neutral, supportive prenatal care.

Congressman Nadler’s full statement is below:

“For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has held that the decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability is a private one; before viability, a woman’s choices, her thoughts, her reasons, her body are not Congress’ or the state’s business.

“This bill flies in the face of that constitutional right by making abortion prior to viability a crime if Congress disagrees with a woman’s reason for wanting one. Further, the bill offers no exemption for the life and health of the mother. I doubt my colleagues on the other side of the aisle see any legitimate reason for accessing abortion, and the majority has also long opposed the constitutionally required exception to protect a woman’s health. But like it or not, that is the law, and this bill clearly violates it.

“As if directly violating a woman’s constitutional rights was not enough, the bill also poisons a woman’s relationship with her doctor and threatens her ability to access neutral, supportive prenatal care. The bill turns medical personnel into thought police – having to examine women’s motives for choosing to have an abortion while trying to limit their own civil and criminal liability. Any clinic employee who suspects that a woman’s motives in accessing abortion could violate this law would have a legal obligation, under penalty of prison, to report that suspicion to law enforcement.

“Can you imagine how that would impact the doctor-patient relationship? Should a doctor now refuse to tell a patient the sex of her fetus for fear that it may lead to an abortion? Should a doctor risk discussing a woman’s options when she becomes pregnant? Should every prenatal visit begin with the medical equivalent of a Miranda warning: “Anything you say to your doctor or a member of this staff can and will be used against you?” So much for protecting the health and safety of women during pregnancy!

“It goes without saying that the only solution the Majority offers to address these perceived racial and gender biases in women’s health care is to ban abortion. If Republicans were really concerned about the rates of abortion among minority populations, perhaps they could pass bills that would expand family planning services or community health centers in underserved areas. They could even stop fighting the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for seamless contraceptive coverage.

“If the majority wanted to stop gender preference, perhaps they could pass bills that would improve the economic conditions of women –like equal pay, paid family leave, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act– to address the economic and cultural pressures for having sons. They could fully fund the Violence Against Women Act, WIC, or public housing to ensure that women and children have the support they need to escape abusive or coercive environments.

“But all those bills cost money and don’t get quite as much attention in the anti-choice community as this bill would. So instead, Republicans are going to waste our time this afternoon pushing yet another unconstitutional abortion ban that will cause more problems than it could ever solve.

“They can dress it up in claims about protecting women and minorities as much as they like, but the majority’s intention with this legislation is clear: to force this country backwards and build more barriers between women and their doctors. Well I won’t stand for it, the constitution won’t support it, and the women of this country won’t tolerate it. ”

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