Bioethics Blogs

The ethics of Indiana HB 1337: Outlawing abortion based on race, sex, and disability

In March, the Indiana legislature passed and the Indiana
governor signed into law
, a bill that bans abortions for women seeking them based solely on
certain characteristics of the fetus, such as race, sex, and disability.
Specifically, the bill:


“Prohibits a person from performing
an abortion if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion
solely because of: (1) the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of
the fetus; or (2) a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down
syndrome or any other disability. Provides for disciplinary sanctions and civil
liability for wrongful death if a person knowingly or intentionally performs a
sex selective abortion or an abortion conducted because of a diagnosis or
potential diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other disability.”


As I have discussed in a previous
, sex selection is a frequent occurrence in certain countries, such as
India and China, where there is a strong preference for sons. Yet, there is
little to no evidence that sex selection abortion is commonplace in the US. Abortion
based on the race of the fetus is similarly rare in the US. While the purpose
of any law is to prohibit actions it deems unethical or contrary to social
norms, regardless of their frequency, due to limited time and resources, it
makes sense to focus on bills that address common occurrences or things that
are so morally repugnant that the state must take a stand. The main motivating
factor for this bill does not seem to be avoiding discrimination based on sex
and race, but rather trying to undermine legal access to abortion.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.