Sex-selection abortion ban draws majority support but fails in House

Rep Chris Smith addresses the controversy of sex selection abortions with left Lila Rose Live Action and Marilyn Musgrave SBA List CNA US Catholic News 5 31 12 Rep. Chris Smith addresses the controversy of sex-selection abortions with (left) Lila Rose, Live Action, and Marilyn Musgrave. | SBA List.

Despite gaining the support of more than half of the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill to prohibit abortions based on the sex of the unborn child was defeated on May 31.

“Sex-selection is violence against women, and it is the truest kind of war against women,” said Rep. Trent Franks on May 30, one day before the vote took place.

Franks, who had introduced the bill, said that it is an act of “extreme violence” to have an abortion solely “based on the sex of the child.”

“In 2007, the United States spearheaded a U.N. resolution to condemn sex-selection abortion worldwide,” he said. Yet America is “the only advanced country left in the world that still doesn’t restrict sex-selection abortion in any way.”

The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act was defeated in the House despite a 246-168 vote in its favor.

Normally, this majority would be enough for the bill to pass. However, the legislation was brought up under a suspension of normal rules. As a result, it would have required the support of two-thirds of the lawmakers in order to pass.

Republicans supported the bill by a 226-7 margin. Among those who voted against it was Ron Paul (R-Tx.), a former hopeful for Republican presidential candidate. 

Democrats opposed the bill by a vote of 161-20.

The legislation would not have prosecuted women who seek abortions. Rather, it would have held accountable those who knowingly coerce, fund or perform sex-selection abortions.

The bill’s advocates noted that it would not in any way affect women seeking an abortion for health reasons. By definition, sex-selection abortions are performed solely due to the gender of the baby.

During debate over the bill on the House floor, supporters pointed to multiple academic studies showing that sex-selection abortion is happening in the United States.

They also referenced a recent poll indicating that the vast majority of American women support a ban on abortions that are based solely on the child’s gender.

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said that she supported the legislation “as a woman, as a mother of four daughters and as a grandmother of three granddaughters.”

She explained that “there can be no rights for women if we don’t allow them the right to life.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) argued that the bill is necessary to “give baby girls the same chance at life as baby boys.”

She said that it is “hypocrisy” to call oneself “pro-woman” while supporting the abortion of a girl based on her gender.

“Since when did America subscribe to the idea that males are worth more than females?” she asked.

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The May 31 vote came amid the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood workers helping women asking for an abortion because their children were girls rather than boys.

The videos were posted online by Live Action, a pro-life group that produces undercover films of abortion clinics violating laws and internal standards.

On May 29, the organization posted a video from an Austin, Tx. Planned Parenthood clinic in April. The video showed a counselor encouraging the possibility of a late term abortion after the female gender had been confirmed, while at the same time admitting that the baby’s “brain is already developed” and “pretty much everything’s already developed.”

Two days later, Live Action posted a similar video from a New York Planned Parenthood clinic, where a clinic worker condoned and helped to schedule a sex-selection abortion, saying that “here at Planned Parenthood, we believe that it’s not up to us to decide what is a good or a bad reason” to have an abortion.

As public awareness of the videos grew, pro-life leaders vowed to keep fighting.

“For most of us ‘it's a girl’ is cause for enormous joy, happiness, and celebration,” said Rep, Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “But in many countries, including our own, it can be a death sentence.”

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