Home » Discriminatory Abortions: The Scylla and Charybdis of Identity Politics and Reproductive Rights

Discriminatory Abortions: The Scylla and Charybdis of Identity Politics and Reproductive Rights

by Andrew Jones

H.R. 4660, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2017, was recently introduced in Congress. And if there ever were a piece of legislation that put a pro-choice, progressive, multiculturalist “between Scylla and Charybdis,” this would be it.

PRENDA would prohibit sex-selection abortion—that is, the mother’s decision to abort would be prohibited if she made the decision based on the unborn child’s sex. The law would hold abortion providers liable—not mothers—if they knew the mother’s decision was based on a preference for one sex over the other.

With this in mind, consider two essential components of progressives’ moral charter: sniffing out and legislating against acts of discrimination, and opposing legislation limiting the right to have an abortion. Taking a stance on PRENDA, therefore, must put them in quite a pickle, and especially so for progressive feminists who are most vigilant and intent on stamping out gender discrimination.

PRENDA was introduced in Congress by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and given the fact that Foxx is both female and pro-life, the legislation is strategically brilliant. It is inviolate—or impregnable, if you will—to criticism from Democrats, because it ticks all three boxes: (1) a woman introduced it, rather than a white man trying to dictate what a woman does with her body; (2) it legislates against discrimination; and (3) it is predicated on identity politics—in this case the protected class being female.

Of course, the ideological collision course will be avoided, and the precariously narrow channel between Scylla and Charybdis can be safely navigated, by the simple rejoinder: “discrimination applies to human beings, a non-viable fetus is not a human being, and therefore gender-based abortions are not an act of discrimination.”

No Democrats have signed onto PRENDA thus far. Nevertheless, it is an interesting example of how, in the legislative arena, the identity politics game can be played the other way to try to make progressives squirm.

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