North Dakota women would be banned from having abortions based on gender selection or a genetic defect like Down syndrome under legislation proposed by a dozen Republican lawmakers.
Fargo Rep. Bette Grande, one of the bill's sponsors, told the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday that abortions based on sex selection or genetic abnormalities have "no place in civilized society."
Testimony on the measure came on the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that declared abortion legal.
The practice of sex-selection abortion usually targets a female fetus because of preference for a baby boy, according to Grande, who said she also has two children with "genetic disabilities."
"It's an act of gender-based violence" and creates "an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance," she said of abortions based on sex selection.
Arizona, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania outlaw sex-selective abortions. North Dakota, which already has among the most stringent anti-abortion laws in the nation, should join them, Grande said.
Officials from the Red River Women's Clinic of Fargo, which is North Dakota's only abortion provider, did not testify Tuesday.
Renee Stromme, director of the North Dakota Women's Network, opposed the measure, saying the government should not make decisions about pregnancy, and that a woman and her doctor should have every medical option available.
"Reproductive choices for women must be ensured," she said, adding that the bill does not include exemptions for genetic disorders that may be fatal.
If the bill becomes law, a doctor who performs abortions based on sex selection or a genetic defect would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
William Schuh of Mandan told lawmakers that he has a 26-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. She has two jobs "and has always been a source of love and happiness for all who have known her," he said.
She "has aspirations just like anyone else," Schuh said.
Schuh urged the committee to ban abortions based on gender or genetic abnormalities. He said such abortions are often done "simply for the purpose of selecting what they or someone else thinks to be a better product.
"People who are allowed an easy out usually take it," he said.