Jan 26

Legislative Proposal for Abortion Reporting of Gender and Birth Defects (Wisconsin)

Legislative Proposal

DOWNLOAD FULL PROPOSAL:  legislative-proposal-2016e

 Contact:  Anthony Horvath, PhD

director@policyintersections.org | 608-526-9196 | 202-697-4623 | 715-937-6067

Amend Section 69.186 of the Wisconsin Statutes[1] (“Induced abortion reporting”) to also require the reporting of

(k) the gender of the aborted child

(l) whether or not the child had a fetal anomaly, and the nature of that anomaly.

Rationale:

 Abortion providers are already required under Wisconsin law to provide certain demographic information about the women obtaining abortions within the state.  There is no requirement, however, to report anything about the unborn child.

The political winds are blowing in favor of ‘pro-life’ positions, with a number of important victories since 2010.  It seems reasonable to believe that Wisconsin might enjoy similar victories in the near future such as prohibitions against sex-selective abortions.  It would be impossible to discern whether or not the law was being complied with, however, because Wisconsin’s abortion requirements do not solicit any information about the gender of the unborn child.

Or anything else about it, for that matter.

Other successes seem likely, but if the national pattern holds, restrictions on abortions will still allow exceptions to be made for ‘fetal abnormalities.’  Numerous studies indicate a high likelihood that many children with defects are being aborted.  Estimates range between 60% to 95%, depending on the condition.  It is important to emphasize that these are estimates.  Since most reports focus on the mother and not the child, very little is known about how many children are targeted for abortion because of its gender or the presence of a birth defect.

Since Wisconsin already requires abortion providers to file a report for each abortion, it would not be a significant burden on them to ask that they also record the gender of the child or if it had a birth defect.

Amending the reporting requirements would not by itself increase or decrease abortions.  However, instead of having to work with estimates, having actual data, even if only at the state level, would allow exploration of other important issues, such as the state’s role in fostering attitudes that reflect values consistent with a high value of human life.

This is where the real work is to be done.  Abortion would not be an option in most minds if not for the low value ascribed to the unborn human.  Similarly, the rate of abortion for children diagnosed with birth defects is connected to attitudes cultivated through family planning clinics, public school curriculum, genetic counseling services, and so on;  some of these programs may indeed be financed in part by the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

Thus, with reliable information in hand, policies could be formulated that help cultivate a ‘culture of life’ and ensure that Wisconsin citizens do not help subsidize policies and/or programs that fuel an opposite perspective.

It is worth noting that many of the arguments offered to justify (or even encourage) aborting children with ‘fetal abnormalities’ are very similar to arguments used to justify (or even encourage?) physician assisted suicide, and euthanasia (both active and passive).  For example, in both areas the assertion is made that the lives are not worth living due to the suffering of the person involved and the costs associated with continuing care.

Addressing the attitudes relating to this issue creates bridges to other issues, including the supposed ‘life of suffering’ the ‘unwanted child’ or his or her mother is expected to have.

Up until recently, very few states sought information about the child that is being aborted.[2] However, due to the support the pro-life cause has, some states have even gone so far as to prohibit ‘selective’ abortions.[3]  The time seems right to press the advantage.

Ultimately, until Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the will of the people will be thwarted.  In the meantime, in Wisconsin we can at least give the unborn the dignity of being counted, even if it is only after they are dead.

[1] The current language is on page 5 of this document.  The state-provided form pertaining to this statute is on page 6.

[2] Since 2010, the number has increased to 15 states.  See attached table.

[3] Indiana and North Dakota; Indiana’s legislation was blocked by a court, but North Dakota’s is still in force.