Sponsor explains why House rejected sex-selective abortion ban

Caroline May | Reporter

Legislation to ban selective-sex abortions was rejected in the House of Representatives under a suspension vote — which requires a two-thirds majority — on Thursday afternoon.

A majority of members, though not two-thirds, voted for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) 246-168 — about thirty votes short of approval.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, the bill’s author, Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, noted that the bill received an “overwhelming majority” of votes but that the cognitive dissonance on the Democratic side of the aisle represented a significant challenge.

“I think that it is hard for the other side to deal with this debate because, on the one hand, they realize that the country and even their own hearts tell them it is wrong to kill a little girl just because she is a little girl,” said Franks, who spoke about his own three-year-old girl in debate. “But once they make that statement, then they have tacitly recognized that what is being done here is the taking of an innocent life.”

Pro-choice groups and Democrats slammed PRENDA as legislation that would restrict women’s access to abortion. Texas Democratic Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee called it “draconian” and said that it would take America “back to the days of coat hangers.”

“This bill is a direct intrusion into the relationship between patient and physician. We realize that there is a suggestion that cultures around the world do this, but in order to change those cultures, this legislation will not work,” she said. “What you really need is an affirmation of the value of women, and today PRENDA is an affirmation of the devaluing of women because what it does is demonizes the physician and the woman, particularly here in the United States.”

Republicans have been quick to accuse the Democratic Party — which is currently alleging that the GOP is engaged in a “war on women” — of “irony and hypocrisy” for opposing legislation to ban aborting future women. (RELATED: Obama opposes ban on sex-selective abortions)

“The Democrats have the gall to accuse the Republicans of a war on women, even as they vote against a bill to prohibit sex-selective abortions. There really aren’t words strong enough to express the irony and hypocrisy of it all,” a Republican House aide wrote in an email to TheDC. “But it’s not just that they voted against the bill; the fact that they are using this line about doctors being expected to intuit a woman’s intentions (the president’s own stated reason for [being] against the bill) literally could not be more false, as evidenced by the Rule of Construction at the end of the bill.”

Indeed, Section 5 of the final bill reads: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to require that a health care provider has an affirmative duty to inquire as to the motivation for the abortion, absent the health care provider having knowledge or information that the abortion is being sought based on the sex or gender of the child.”

Franks handed out an information sheet highlighting that section to members on the House floor prior to the vote.

While there are not clear plans for the next step, The Hill reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner appears amenable to a second attempt.

“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.”

Despite the measure failing today, pro-choice groups expressed their anger that Congress even considered PRENDA.

“Although the bill failed, the National Organization for Women is appalled that lawmakers in the House would sponsor such a deceptive bill in yet another attempt to block women’s access to necessary health care,” The National Organization for Women wrote in a press release. “While the bill purports to support gender equality and civil rights, PRENDA does nothing to address sex discrimination, and instead simply demonizes women seeking abortions.”

Franks remains undeterred, however.

“There are an awful lot of little girls that this effort comes too late to help,” he said. “But I want to make sure that hopefully my little girl grows up in a world where that tragedy is changed.”

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