WASHINGTON, DC – In spite of a clear majority vote, the House of Representatives failed to pass a Republican bill that would have imposed fines and possible imprisonment on physicians who performed abortions for the sole purpose of controlling the race or the gender of the child.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. In spite of the clear majority vote the bill was introduced under a suspension of House rules that limited debate and required a two-thirds majority to pass.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated that the issue of stopping sex-selective abortion is important enough that they would try again, but did not indicate what that meant. There have been times when Republicans have rescheduled such bills for regular consideration after they have failed, allowing for passage by a simple majority.
Calls for such a bill gained momentum after several Planned Parenthood counselors were proven to have counseled clients about the possibility of what is being called “sex-selective abortion.” “This is an important issue to the American people,” Boehner said. “This type of sex selection most Americans find pretty repulsive, and our members feel strongly about it. That’s why it is being brought to the floor.”
Republicans said during debate that the bill is consistent with the stated U.S. position that sex-selective abortion should be condemned around the world. “In 2007, the United States spearheaded a U.N. resolution to condemn sex-selective abortion worldwide,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), the sponsor of the bill. “Yet, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are the only advanced country left in the world that still doesn’t restrict sex-selective abortion in any way.”
Some Democrats were adamant that they oppose sex-selective abortion but said they oppose the bill’s enforcement provisions. We can all agree that women should not choose to terminate a pregnancy based solely on gender, but this bill criminalizes a legal procedure,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) said Thursday afternoon.
“The bill includes a provision that would allow a women’s husband or parents, by merely alleging that an abortion is because of gender, to seek injunctive relief to prevent the doctor from performing abortion procedures, sending an incredibly private and personal decision into the courts,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) added Thursday.
“It is another Republican intrusion into a woman’s right to choose,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) of the GOP bill on Wednesday. “Women should be able to make such sensitive and private decisions with their families, their doctors, and their god, free from the fear of the police.”
Texas Democratic Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, speaking to MSNBC, was even more dramatic. “I think the next act will be dragging women out of patient rooms into the streets and screaming over their bodies as they get dragged out of getting access to women’s health care,” she said. “That’s what I feel like is occurring today with the legislation that is on the floor.” She went on to say, “It suggests … that they’re going go in and have an abortion for a dastardly reason other than the choice and the personal need and the faith conversation and medical needs of that particular patient. This is a draconian, drastic initiative and frankly, it should go down today.”
Considering Representative Lee is African-American, it is interesting that she did not note that the bill also sought to criminalize aborting children based on race. Apparently she and others like her are unaware of or have simply chosen to overlook that Margaret Sanger, mother of the modern Planned Parenthood movement, was a firm supporter of eugenics and saw birth control and abortion as a means to curb the population of races and peoples she saw less than acceptable.
Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.), and Ron Paul (Texas).
Democrats voting for it were Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Mark Critz (Pa.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Silvestre Reyes (Texas), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).