June 1, 2012 — House Republicans on Thursday fell short in an effort to pass a bill (HR 3541) by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that would have banned sex-selective abortion, the New York Times reports. Lawmakers voted 246-168 in favor of the bill, but it required a two-thirds majority to pass because it was brought to the floor under a procedure known as a suspension of the rules (Steinhauer, New York Times, 5/31).
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, or PRENDA, would have imposed criminal penalties on abortion providers if they perform a procedure based on the fetus' sex or accept payments to do so, as well as anyone who coerces a woman to obtain an abortion because of the sex of the fetus.
The bill also would have blocked federal funding to organizations that do not comply with its provisions and required medical professionals to report suspected violations. Violators would have faced fines or imprisonment for up to five years. The bill did not include language from an earlier version that also would have banned abortion based on race (Women's Health Policy Report¸ 5/31).
Republicans hoped that bringing the measure to a vote would force Democrats to either support it or have to explain why they rejected a measure the GOP portrayed as protecting women, according to the Los Angeles Times. Democrats countered that the bill was politically motivated and criticized Republicans' voting record on other women's rights issues (Duncan, Los Angeles Times, 5/31).
Regardless of the House vote, the bill had little chance of becoming law. The Democrat-controlled Senate was not expected to discuss it, and the White House released a statement on Wednesday saying that President Obama opposes the bill (AP/USA Today, 5/31). House Republicans could make a second attempt at passing the bill through a simple majority vote, according to the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times, 5/31).
Reaction to Vote
Abortion-rights advocates praised lawmakers for rejecting the bill. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said, "Rather than attacking a woman's right to choose, lawmakers with a sincere interest in addressing gender discrimination should support policies that work to combat the bias and stereotypes that continue to plague our society."
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the organization opposes sex-selective 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," she added (Fox, National Journal, 5/31).
Planned Parenthood Responds to Live Action Hoax Patient Videos
Planned Parenthood officials said hoax patient videos released by the antiabortion group Live Action aim to promote "false claims about our organization and patient services," the New York Times' "The Lede" reports. Live Action released videos on Tuesday and Thursday showing Planned Parenthood employees offering guidance to women posing as patients who said they wanted abortions because they were concerned about giving birth to a girl (Preston, "The Lede," New York Times, 5/31).
The videos were filmed at clinics in Austin, Texas, and New York City. Planned Parenthood said the videos were edited to omit parts of the conversation where the employee offered other options to the patient, including adoption. "Edited videos of hoax patient visits are part of a coordinated campaign over the last several years to distort Planned Parenthood's services, mission and values," Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for PPFA, said (Bassett, Huffington Post, 5/31). Live Action also released what it said was an unedited version of the New York City video.
Kantor reiterated that Planned Parenthood "condemns sex selection motivated by gender bias, and urges leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to these beliefs and practices, including addressing the social, legal, economic and political conditions that promote gender bias and lead some to value one gender over the other." The employee in the Austin video did not follow protocol and was fired three days after the visit occurred in April, she said, adding that staff members were retrained on "managing unusual patient encounters" ("The Lede," New York Times, 5/31).