Policy Spotlight No Wrong Reasons: How ‘Reason Bans’ Harm Everyone.

April 13, 2021

In this session, the Arizona state legislature is considering SB 1457, which would construct many new penalties and barriers to accessing abortion. If SB 1457 becomes law, it would, among other things, establish a felony-level criminal charge for abortion providers who “perform an abortion when the reason it was sought is due to a genetic abnormality, such as Down Syndrome.” 

This type of ban is known as a ‘reason ban’ because it focuses on the pregnant person’s motivation for ending a pregnancy. It is essential to look at why SB 1457 and bills like it are disastrous for reproductive rights and people with disabilities. Here is a breakdown we hope will be helpful when discussing such bans.

  • It is reductive. The anti-choice movement promotes the idea that there are inherently wrong reasons for someone to have an abortion. This attempt to characterize people who have abortions as callous or immoral hurts all who need this care. Such proposals flatten out a complex decision-making process that often considers physical, socioeconomic, cultural, emotional, and spiritual factors unique to every person. There are no right or wrong reasons to end a pregnancy. There is only someone making the best possible decision with the information available in the moment.
  • It promotes misinformation. Proponents of SB 1457 would have us believe that people often end pregnancies due to genetic test results. The truth is that abortions due to fetal anomalies are rare and often tragic for families who end wanted pregnancies. Typically, accurate genetic testing in pregnancy occurs around 20 weeks. Data from the Guttmacher Institute informs us that 88% of abortions occur by 12 weeks, and only 1.3% occur after 20 weeks gestation. Bills like SB 1457 distort the realities of abortion by focusing on a tiny percentage of overall incidents.
  • It uses disabled people as political pawns. Proponents of SB 1457 claim it is to protect the ‘unborn’ who would have disabilities and slander the abortion rights movement as participating in eugenics. Eugenics was once a widespread movement that involved state-sanctioned population control schemes that targeted disabled people. This sort of rhetoric also erases the reality that disabled persons also have abortions!Advocates for reproductive justice understand that significant policy and culture changes are required to afford people with disabilities a dignified life and full participation in society. Yet, many politicians who support reason bans also tend to vote against policy proposals in education, health care, and infrastructure to benefit actual people with disabilities. Reason bans like SB 1457 cynically draw upon the history of eugenics and ongoing discrimination against disabled people to paint abortion rights advocates as the enemy. 

The anti-choice movement would have us believe that disability justice and abortion access are inherently at odds. Bodily autonomy is at the heart of both movements, making us powerful allies. We must rely on the facts and resist crass attempts to divide movements for justice.

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