The House on Thursday fell short in an effort to ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus as Republicans and Democrats made an election-year appeal for women’s votes.
The legislation would have made it a federal crime to perform or force a woman to undergo a sex-based abortion, a practice most common in some Asian countries where families wanting sons abort female fetuses.
The White House, most Democrats, abortion rights groups and some Asian-American organizations opposed the bill, saying it could lead to racial profiling of Asian-American women and subject doctors who do not report suspected sex-selection abortions to criminal charges.
“The administration opposes gender discrimination in all forms, but the end result of this legislation would be to subject doctors to criminal prosecution if they fail to determine the motivations behind a very personal and private decision,” White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith said in a statement. “The government should not intrude in medical decisions or private family matters in this way.”
Here is the break-down for today’s vote. 226 Republicans voted in favor the ban; seven voted against it. 20 Democrats voted for the ban; 161 voted against it. The final tally came up 30 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill.
The issue of sex-selective abortions in the US received additional attention this week when the pro-life group Live Action released several videos (here and here) of undercover visits to Planned Parenthood facilities, in which Planned Parenthood employees offer advice to women seeking abortions should their unborn children prove to be girls.
In January 2010, Daniel Allott wrote in CWR about widespread sex selection favoring boys in Asia and India, and about how the practice may be spreading among segments of the American population, with the increased availability of ultrasounds and other forms of prenatal testing.