This afternoon, the House debated a bill that would ban sex-selection abortions in the United States, pitting Republicans and Democrats in a showdown over a woman's right to choose, which opponents contend is "intended to chip away at a woman's right to obtain safe, legal medical care."
The measure, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), was perceived by Democrats as a dim-witted ploy to coax liberal lawmakers to support the bill or be faced with the prospect of an onslaught of campaign advertisements this fall highlighting a lawmaker's vote to essentially support sex-selection abortions.
"Somebody decided politically that it was a difficult place to put people in," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Wednesday afternoon at his pen-and-pad briefing. "It's a political effort, not a substantive effort."
But after the plight of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who spoke out against forced abortions in his native China, captured international headlines this month, GOP aides said the leadership hoped to capitalize on the momentum of that awareness to ensure that sex-selection abortions are not legal in the U.S.
"For most of us, Mr. Speaker, 'It's a girl' is cause for enormous joy, happiness and celebration," Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said on the House floor. "But in many countries including our own, it could be a death sentence. Today the three-most dangerous words in China and India are, 'It's a girl.' We can't let that happen here."
Earlier this week, a pro-life group released an undercover video purportedly showing a Planned Parenthood counselor in Texas assisting a woman seeking a sex-selection abortion. Gendercide, the practice of killing baby girls or terminating pregnancies solely because the fetus is female, is estimated to have produced a "gender imbalance" with 100 million more girls than boys around the world.
Many nations with staunchly pro-choice/pro-abortion rights laws and protections nevertheless ban sex-selection abortions. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands all have laws banning sex-selection abortions.
A vote on the measure was postponed until Thursday. Approval of the measure is subject to a two-thirds majority, which may be difficult to attain given the Democrats' general opposition to what they perceive as another Republican attempt to engage Democrats in the so-called War on Women. The House Democratic leadership does not whip the Democratic caucus on votes dealing with choice or war.
"The Republican majority continues its War on Women in a new and creative way: by attempting to couch legislation that would destroy women's fundamental constitutional rights as a woman's rights law. It is cynical, but creative," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "The preference for male children is a real, if limited, phenomenon in the United States. Some women face familial and community preference to have male children, and that pressure can increase with each subsequent birth. But this does nothing to help those women."