Representative Stearns just responded to our request for comment on criminalizing women who get abortions:
“Although it is up to the House leadership to bring up PRENDA again, given the wide support it received I would encourage it being put on the House floor underregular order under which it would pass. I also agree with the United Nations Development Fund for Women that the sex-selection abortion of females is violence against women and girls and there should be repercussions.”
To be clear, the question Rep. Stearns was asked by Chris Matthews was not in reference to sex-selective abortion but to abortion overall.
Last week on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said that the Prenatal Non-discrimination act (PRENDA), which failed in a House vote under suspection, “will be back on the floor and not under suspension…”. He was clearly brought onto the program to talk about PREDNA, but made one comment in particular that went beyond that, callig for criminal penalties against a woman obtaining an abortion. This is a line the GOP has not publicly crossed in policy discussions, reserving its ire for doctors who perform abortions.
Here is an excerpt of Stearns and Matthew’s exchange:
MATTHEWS “Should there be a punishment for having an abortion?”
STEARNS: “The punishment should certainly be very serious and it should be more that a civil [case].”
MATTHEWS: “It should be a criminal problem for the woman as well as the doctor?”
STEARNS: “I think so.”
I spoke with Rep. Sterns press contact, Paul Flusche to confirm if Sterns in fact supports (in essence) arresting women and criminally punishing her for having an abortion. Mr. Flusche has not be able to provide an answer at this time.
PRENDA provides criminal punishment for a doctor performing a sex-selective abortion. It also allows the woman’s partner or husband or certain close family members to file a civil suits against doctors who performed a sex-selective abortion. And, they can file these suits without the woman’s approval or consent.
Criminalizing the woman would be something new for the GOP. A source who wished to remain anonymous responded to my question about Sterns call for criminalization by saying that Congressman Stearns can be a little bit out there in his extreme right politics. (Sterns got a 0 percent rating from NARAL, opposes stem-cell research, voted to defund family planning (read: Planned Parenthood), and voted to prohibit the already-prohibited federal funding of abortion.)
However, when a US Representative goes on national television and says that a woman should be criminally punished for having an abortion, questions must be asked and answers must be given.
This morning, Mitt Romney appointed Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers to be his House liason. I contacted Representative McMorris Rogers office to see if she had comment on the the statement by Mr. Stearns apparently endorsing criminal punishment for women who obtain abortions. Her communications officier, Todd Winer, did not respond to my request for comment.
Note: Representative Trent Franks office confirmed today that PRENDA will be reintroduced. His staffer told me, “We always hope it will be reintroduced in this congress under different rules,” but if not, she said it would be brought up in the next congress.