Generally speaking, the Republican Party isn’t known for its stalwart defense of civil rights these days. The party has helped to obstruct legislation that would require equal pay for women. In 2006, many congressional Republicans voted against renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights law that helped ensure equal access to the ballot box. But lately, Republicans have enthusiastically embraced the expansion of anti-discrimination laws to at least one category of individuals: those still in the womb. Their sudden interest in civil rights for the unborn is part of a broader anti-abortion strategy designed to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade by passing legislation aimed at abortion restrictions that are supported by a majority of the public.
To that end, for the third time in as many years, Republicans in the House are considering the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban abortion based solely on the race or gender of the fetus. The bill was introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who has made fighting abortion his life’s crusade. “This is the civil rights struggle that will define our generation,” he declared at a December hearing on his bill in the House subcommittee on the Constitution.
The bill ostensibly concerns itself with the plight of the black community, where, according to the legislation, “race-selection abortions have the effect of diminishing the number of minorities in the American population and therefore, the American electorate.” The Republicans who wrote the bill are also concerned that women are exterminating their gender through sex-selection abortions, which they claim is causing “unnatural sex-ratio imbalances within certain segments of the United States population…”
The bill’s language invokes the nation’s great struggles for racial and gender equality, noting that “the elimination of discriminatory practices has been and is among the highest priorities and greatest achievements of American history.” And it takes its constitutional authority from, among others, the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery. Franks has even suggested thatabortion has been more harmful to the black community than slavery. “Far more black children, far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today, than were being devastated by the policies of slavery,” he said last year, a comment roundly condemned by civil rights groups.