The XX Factor

Indiana Considers Banning Abortions for Down Syndrome

Anti-abortion activists protest in Indiana.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

In this month’s federal and state legislative anti-abortion frenzy, it takes a lot for a bill to stand out, but Indiana state senator Travis Holdman has managed to pull it off. Holdman introduced a bill that would make it a felony for a doctor to abort a pregnancy for sex-selective reasons or because of “a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.” According to RH Reality Check, “The term ‘any other disability’ includes: a mental disability or retardation; a physical disfigurement; Scoliosis; Dwarfism; Down syndrome; Albinism; Amelia; and physical or mental disease.” Like many other anti-choice bills percolating through the state legislatures, this one is based on model legislation crafted by Americans United for Life

Bills banning sex-selective abortions are trendy among the anti-choice set because, while those abortions aren’t actually common in real life, it’s politically expedient to traffic in ugly stereotypes of daughter-hating Asian immigrants. But even though abortions because of a fetal diagnosis are far more common, anti-choice legislators tend to avoid going there. Indiana considered a similar bill last year and killed it. Missouri also saw a similar bill fail. North Dakota is the only state to pass such a bill into law

But while these bills are still struggling to get off the ground, the fact that they’re showing up at all is indicative of the growing boldness of anti-choice legislators. Banning the non-existent problem of sex-selective abortion is an easy way to grandstand and score “pro-life” points while preening about how pro-woman you are. But banning abortions for fetal abnormalities could negatively affect all sorts of women—and their husbands—including those that tend to vote Republican.

No one is well served when children with disabilities are forced on families that know they don’t have the emotional or financial resources to help them. And this entire bill, which is supported by anti-choice groups in Indiana, would only truly impact the most vulnerable families—those who don’t have the money or ability to travel out of state to get these abortions elsewhere.