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U.S. House Democrats defeat sex-selective abortion ban

By Kay Steiger
Thursday, May 31, 2012 15:54 EDT
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Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) via  Gage Skidmore / Flickr
 
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The House of Representatives voted down a bill Thursday that sought to ban sex-selective abortion, 246-168, according to the Washington Post. The bill “failed to pass as House Republicans brought it up under a suspension of normal rules that required it to earn a two-thirds majority vote.” The Prenatal Non-discrimination Act would have created legal penalties of up to five years in prison for anyone who knowingly “performs an abortion knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of a parent of that child.” Just seven House Republicans voted against the bill, with 20 Democrats voting in favor of the ban.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement on the vote, saying, “As a women’s health advocate for nearly 100 years, Planned Parenthood opposes sex-selection abortion. But this legislation fails to address the real causes of inequality and health disparities, and instead takes aim at the very communities it claims to help. Racism and gender discrimination are serious issues, and the solution is not to cast suspicion on doctors that serve communities facing the greatest health disparities, many of which are minority communities.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also issued a statement, calling the bill a “a cynical attempt to undermine access to abortion care, particularly for women of color,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R) introduced the bill. Frank is the same congressman that sought to put a 20-week abortion ban in the District of Columbia without allowing the District’s own congressional representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to testify.

The vote happened on the same day that Live Action, an anti-choice group more or less dedicated to the downfall of Planned Parenthood, released a new “investigative” video on “gendercide” allegedly happening at a Planned Parenthood clinic in New York City. The video claims that “over 100 million girls who would be alive today are killed” based on results of gender testing.

The video depicts a Live Action operative posing as a woman who is pregnant with a girl who is seeking an abortion because it “looks like it’s gonna be a girl, another girl.” A woman, allegedly a Planned Parenthood employee, explains in the video both how to determine via a genetic test the sex of a fetus and the safety of abortions at various stages in the pregnancy. The woman also said, “It’s not up to us to decide what is a good or bad reason for somebody to decide to terminate a pregnancy.”

As Media Matters points out, “This is in line with Planned Parenthood’s stated policy,” which is that “no Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions (Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois).” Planned Parenthood also predicted this series of videos last month, issuing an op-ed in RH Reality Check that warned Live Action would publish these videos.

Lila Rose, the group’s founder, said in a press release, “Planned Parenthood has built their abortion empire on their belief that any abortion is a good abortion, even if it is motivated by the very discrimination against women that they claim to abhor.”

According to research from the sexual health research group the Guttmacher Institute, “Sex-selective abortion is widespread in certain countries, especially those in East and South Asia, where an inordinately high social value is placed on men over women. In those countries, sex-selective abortion has resulted in dangerously skewed sex ratios, with boys heavily outnumbering girls. In the United States, meanwhile, there is limited data indicating that sex-selective abortion may be occurring in some Asian communities, although the U.S. sex ratio, at 1.05 males for every female, is squarely within biologically normal parameters.”

This means there’s no reason to believe that sex-selective abortion is a pervasive problem in the United States. Even in countries where sex selection is a problem, Guttmacher’s analysis found that addressing underlying gender inequalities is more effective than banning sex testing of fetuses or abortion. In South Korea, where sex ratios became imbalanced in the 1980s due to the prevalence of genetic testing and the country’s preference for male earners, Guttmacher found that, “Although the government pursued concerted attempts to enforce its laws against prenatal sex detection, researchers give much of the credit for the turnaround to the country’s industrialization, urbanization and rapid economic development, which together played a major role in fundamentally altering underlying social norms. Other trends that increased the status of women included more female employment in the labor market, new laws and policies to improve gender equality and awareness-raising campaigns through the media.”

Watch the video, published by Live Action to YouTube on May 31:

[Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) via Gage Skidmore / Flickr]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
 
 
 
 
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