A Pennsylvania lawmaker has introduced a bill that would force men to undergo sterilization in response to the Texas law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb announced his intention to introduce legislation designed to “enforce reproductive responsibility among men.” In a memorandum sent to his colleagues Saturday, Rabb lamented that “for far too long, the public debate around abortion, contraception and related reproductive matters has thrust government into the center of restrictions on the bodily autonomy of women and girls.”
“I will be introducing legislation that will require all inseminators to undergo vasectomies within six weeks from having their third child or 40th birthday, whichever comes first,” he wrote. “Further, this legislation will allow Pennsylvanians to take civil action for unwanted pregnancies against inseminators who wrongfully conceive a child with them.”
If enacted, the proposed law would offer a $10,000 reward to private citizens in Pennsylvania who fail to abide by its requirements. It would also define “wrongful conception” to include “negligence to prevent conception during intercourse.”
Rabb suggested that his measure was initiated as a response to pro-life laws passed in other states: “As long as state legislatures continue to restrict the reproductive rights of cis women, trans men and nonbinary people, there should be laws that address the responsibility of men who impregnate them.”
He concluded the memorandum by encouraging his colleagues to examine “this forthcoming bill that seeks to end this egregiously gendered double standard for the benefit of all individuals, our families and our great commonwealth.” The bill stands little chance of passing in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
In a statement released Monday, Rabb referred to his effort as “parody legislation” while addressing the reaction he’s received: “I have received the affirmation and support of people in and far beyond my district who hold reproductive rights sacrosanct — not to mention people who see the value in satire to raise awareness around serious issues such as this.”
Rabb also directed a message at critics of his legislation: “To each person who views this bill I’ve introduced as absurd, I’d urge you to apply equal scrutiny to laws in places like Texas and right here in Pennsylvania, which enact paternalistic restrictions on the personal liberty of cis women, trans men and nonbinary individuals who have an unwanted pregnancy. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!”
In a series of tweets unveiling his intention to introduce the legislation, Rabb indicated that he was inspired by Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat, who introduced The Expanding Abortion Services Act. Cassidy’s legislation allows private citizens to bring a civil suit against anyone who “commits an act of sexual assault or domestic abuse” or “causes a person to have an unintended pregnancy.”
I will be introducing a bill inspired by @RepKellyCassidy that requires all inseminators to undergo #vasectomies within 6 weeks of having their third child or 40th birthday, whichever comes first. /1
Additionally, . . .#ReproJustice#ReproductiveRights#AbortionIsHealthcare— Rep. Chris Rabb (@RepRabb) October 2, 2021
In response to criticism from Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who derided Rabb’s bill as “more far-left insanity,” the Pennsylvania legislator informed him that “Your sister-in-law @RepKellyCassidy partly inspired me, Newty!” Cassidy is married to Gingrich’s half-sister Candace.
While Cassidy’s bill will require courts to award statutory damages of at least “$10,000 for each of sexual assault or domestic abuse or act that causes an unintended pregnancy,” it does not require the perpetrators of such actions to undergo a vasectomy.
However, the legislation does require one-half of the damages to go to “a special fund in the State treasury, known as the State Abortion Freedom Expansion Fund, to be used by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, to pay the costs of abortions for pregnant persons who travel to Illinois from states that prohibit abortions for the purpose of obtaining access to abortions in Illinois.” Unlike Rabb’s proposal, Cassidy’s legislation has a much higher chance of becoming law in heavily Democratic Illinois.
Both pieces of legislation come after the United States Supreme Court allowed Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, to go into effect. In addition to effectively banning abortions after six weeks gestation, the law allows private citizens to sue abortionists or anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of abortion through insurance or otherwise.”
The provisions of the legislation proposed by both Rabb and Cassidy allowing individuals to take civil action against violators of the law closely mimic the language of SB 8. Democrats at the national level are also taking action to counter the Texas law.
Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into federal law and prevent states from passing pro-life laws. The bill is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate, where most legislation requires 60 votes to pass.
The Democrats have a narrow 50-50 majority in the upper chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for the Democrats. Democrats would need to pick up support from 10 Senate Republicans for the bill to pass. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the few remaining pro-choice Republican lawmakers in Washington, told The Los Angeles Times that she would not support the measure.