The U.S. House rejected legislation to ban abortions based on the gender of the fetus and to make performing or aiding such a procedure a crime punishable by as many as five years in prison.
“History and eternity will condemn a ‘no’ vote on this bill,” said Representative Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican who sponsored the bill.
The vote was 246-168, short of the two-thirds majority needed under a fast-track procedure used by the House.
The measure, H.R. 3541, would make it a federal crime to perform an abortion “knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of the child.” It also would bar using force or the threat of force to coerce such an abortion; funding or receiving payment for a sex-selection abortion; and transporting a woman across state lines or into the U.S. for such an abortion.
The bill wouldn’t penalize women who undergo an abortion for sex-selection reasons.
It also wouldn’t mandate that doctors, nurses and other medical professionals ask women why they wanted an abortion, though it would require health professionals to report to police if they suspected such an abortion had been performed. The measure would block federal grants to organizations where such procedures were performed.
The Obama administration opposed the legislation, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
“We oppose gender discrimination in all its forms,” he said. Still, “the result of this legislation would be to subject doctors to criminal prosecution” for failing to accurately determine a patient’s motivations, Carney said.
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, told reporters yesterday the bill is a “political effort” to create difficulty for lawmakers who vote against it. “Nobody I know” favors abortions for the purpose of gender selection, he said.
Franks said Republicans haven’t ruled out bringing similar legislation before the House later under a procedure requiring a simple majority vote.
“After today, people who vote will at least be on record,” Franks said in an interview.