The House votes Thursday on a bill that would make it illegal to perform an abortion based on the sex of the fetus. The bill is likely to fail, as many Democrats, including President Obama, oppose it – saying that it’s written in a way to discourage doctors from doing abortions at all.
Supporters are unapologetic about that. House Republicans are pressing forward on Thursday to force Democrats to take a tough vote on a bill that at first glance seems like no one would question, thus making it hard to explain their opposition to constituents.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act or PRENDA, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., would make it a federal offense to perform, solicit funds to perform, or coerce a woman into a sex-selection abortion. It carries penalties of up to five years in prison.
It is heading to the floor under suspension of the rules, a procedural maneuver typically reserved for less-controversial bills and requiring two-thirds of House members present and voting to pass. About 287 members will have to vote “aye” for the bill to pass, meaning that approximately 45 Democrats would have to join the Republicans.
NARAL Pro-Choice America says that the bill isn’t as simple as it looks. “The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act could subject a doctor to up to five years in prison for failing to determine if sex is a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy,” the group said in a statement.
“The bill would require doctors to police their patients, undermining patient-doctor privilege,” Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a statement. “It limits a woman’s right to choose and jeopardizes her access to safe, legal medical care.”
Supporters deny this and point to language in the bill protecting women and their doctors: “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 and other anti-abortion house members have a parcel of measures making their way to the floor, including a bill making it illegal to perform an abortion in the District of Columbia after 20 week, bills requiring parental notification of abortion, and measures eliminating federal funding for some international family-planning groups.
A poll released on Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that about three in 10 American women believe there is a "wide-scale effort to limit women's reproductive health choices and services”.
The nonprofit Guttmacher Institute did an analysis suggesting that the Franks bill would do little to stop people from aborting pregnancies based on the sex of the fetus. “Rather than working to address the harmful social and cultural norms that lead to son preference and, as a result, sex-selective abortion, these proposals cynically advance a narrow agenda that starts and ends with banning abortion,” Sneha Barot, who wrote the analysis, said in a statement.