The Florida House of Representatives Thursday passed a bill, 71-44, that would make it a crime for abortion providers to knowingly provide an abortion to a customer seeking to abort their fetus because of his or her race or gender. Some Democratic lawmakers walked out of the House chambers in protest as the bill was debated.
The bill, H.B. 845, would require abortion providers to sign an affidavit for each customer confirming that she is not seeking an abortion because of the race or gender of her fetus. Anyone who knowingly performs or "actively participates" in a race or gender-selective abortion could be charged with a third-degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Fines could also be imposed for not reporting incidents of race or gender-selective abortions.
"This wickedness of destroying human babies because they are not the chosen sex or chosen race must be brought to an end in our state," said Rep. Charles Van Zant, the bill's lead sponsor, according to Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press.
Van Zant also invoked the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Holocaust as he argued that abortionists such as Planned Parenthood have practiced eugenics by targeting black neighborhoods for their abortion services.
"In America alone, without the Nazi Holocaust, without the Ku Klux Klan, Planned Parenthood and other abortionists have reduced our black population by more than 25 percent since 1973. This is called discriminatory targeting," he said, according to Rochelle Koff of the Tampa Bay Times.
According to The Huffington Post, several black lawmakers, including and at least five women, walked out during the debate in protest.
"If these representatives truly care about even the subject matter of black genocide, I've got a few bills they could file," Rep. Darryl Rouson (D) told The Huffington Post. "That's what got me upset. They could have talked about the bill and its intent without trying to use black genocide and black babies to sway a vote."
Rep. Keith Perry (R), one of the bill's supporters who cited statistics on the number of abortions in black communities, told The Huffington Post that he sent a personal letter of apology to Rouson.
"What I did was speak some facts about percentages of abortion that are performed, and the ratios [for black women] far exceed the norm of the population. ... The concern is whether or not there's a strategic marketing approach by people who provide abortions to target certain groups. I don't know if they do or not, but there's a concern that some people may share," Perry said.
Pro-life groups have argued before that Planned Parenthood intentionally places their abortion services, or abortion referral services, in or near black and Latino neighborhoods. At least two pro-life websites, protectingblacklife.org and blackgenocide.com, seek to bring attention to the issue.
In January 2011, Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group that was founded by Planned Parenthood, published a study using census data showing that most abortion clinics are in white neighborhoods. The study was published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a journal published by Guttmacher Institute.
In response to that study, Life Dynamics Incorporated, a pro-life research organization, published a study purporting to show that Guttmacher's work was incorrect and Planned Parenthood facilities are primarily placed in minority neighborhoods.
The different results of the two studies appear to be based upon how they each define which zip codes are considered minority neighborhoods and which Planned Parenthood facilities are included.
The Florida House also recently passed two other abortion related bills – one that would require emergency care for infants born alive as the result of a botched abortion, and one that would recognize the fetus as a victim when a pregnant woman is assaulted.
If the bill is passed, Florida will become the fifth state to ban gender-selective abortions and the second state to ban race-selective abortions.