Column • Crackdown on gender selection is a solution in search of a problem.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Here we go again another anti-abortion ploy to pad a conservative lawmaker's résumé and undermine women who want to exercise their constitutional right to govern their own reproductive lives.
The lawmaker is Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem. She's floating a bill titled "Gender Selection Abortion Prohibition," which would keep women from having an abortion based on whether she wants a son, not a daughter, or vice versa.
Trouble is, such procedures are extremely rare in Utah. Dayton's bill is a solution looking for a problem and a disingenuous one at that.
At the Utah Women's Clinic, those who seek such abortions invariably are women who live out of state and are citizens of India, where the procedure is more prevalent than in the United States, says administrator Miriam Staker.
Abortion doctors who are asked to use an ultrasound to determine the gender of a fetus nearly always refuse to do that past 20 weeks gestation, she says, and will not perform the procedure.
Virtually everyone else who comes to the Salt Lake City clinic never asks about the sex of the fetus. "They don't want to know," Staker says.
It's the same at Planned Parenthood of Utah, says CEO Karrie Galloway.
"When women talk about terminating pregnancy, I've never heard any of our staff discussing gender as an issue," she says. "Women who have abortions don't know the gender of the fetus."
Four other states Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois bar sex-selection abortions. But, in May, the U.S. House rejected a bill that would have imposed fines and prison terms on doctors who perform such procedures.
Just before that vote, NARAL Pro-Choice America warned that the bill would do "nothing to address the country's real problems of racism and sexism," erect barriers for reproductive health care and "perpetuate stereotypes about immigrant communities and communities of color."
Utah's immigrant communities and those of color are small but growing. But as Galloway and Staker say, sex-selection abortions are so rare as to be virtually nonexistent.
That's why Dayton and her bill are nothing but a cynical attempt to undermine women's reproductive rights, which have been upheld repeatedly since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed a measure that forces women to wait three days after seeing doctor about an abortion to have the procedure. Then, as now, an ideologically driven politician cooked up a problem that scarcely existed and imposed a "solution" on women, who almost invariably think deeply before turning to abortion.
Most important, Dayton or any other legislator should have no voice in a conversation between a woman and her doctor.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.