On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives tried to pass yet another bill to regulate women's reproductive rights -- but this time, it failed.
State lawmakers are on their way to enacting even more abortion restrictions this year than in 2011, a record-breaking year for attacks on reproductive rights.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) was defeated in a 246-161 vote. Although a clear majority voted in favor of the legislation, which aims to prevent abortions for the sole purpose of controlling the gender of the unborn child, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The bill would have needed 30 more yea votes to pass.
Twenty Democrats voted for the bill; only seven Republicans opposed it.
While supporters (primarily Republican men) attempted to characterize the bill as a form of civil rights legislation -- its sponsor, Trent Franks of Arizona, has said the bill would help stop "the real war on women" -- opponents argued it was simply a cover to impose even more stringent regulations to hamper women's access to abortion services.
"It is another Republican intrusion into a woman's right to choose," Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said Wednesday, according to The Hill. "Women should be able to make such sensitive and private decisions with their families, their doctors, their God, free from the fear of police."
Moreover, PRENDA would have been very difficult to actually enforce. Under the law, medical professionals would be required to report "suspected" discriminatory abortions or face possible criminal charges, including fines and prison terms. Just how they would be able to determine whether a woman was seeking out an abortion for sex selection is unclear. Plus, in another provision demonstrative of the bill's intent to limit women's reproductive choices, the legislation would allow a woman's partner or parents to sue an abortion provider if they suspect she acted because of the fetus's gender.
The Republicans' claim that the bill is intended to protect women is interesting considering the range of legislation intended to help women that has been rejected by the party in recent weeks. The same lawmakers have opposed measures to require equal pay for women under the Paycheck Fairness Act (a bill that will reportedly be brought before the Senate next month) and more recently, gutted the Senate's version of the Violence Against Women Act to strip protections from immigrant women and gays and lesbians.
According to a 2011 joint report from the World Health Organization, the United Nation's Children's Fund, the United Nations Population Fund, U.N. Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, sex-selective abortion is primarily a concern in Asian nations.
In 2005, the overall sex ratio at birth in the U.S. was 105 boys to 100 girls, a figure the Guttmacher Institute reports is "squarely within biologically normal parameters."
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