Dems say sex-selective abortion bill restricts women's right to choose

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) made it clear that "we are all opposed to [abortions based on] sex selection," but she said the GOP bill is "about women's healthcare."

"The ramifications are real and they are very dangerous," she said of the bill during floor debate. "Attempts to restrict or deny access to safe abortions is harmful to women's health and would ultimately take us back to the days of back alley abortions."

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Like other Democrats, Lee argued that requiring healthcare workers to report suspected sex-selection abortions to authorities is too obtrusive.

"If this bill passes it would forever change the doctor-patient relationship as we know it," she said. "Politics, government has no place preventing doctors and other health professionals from informing patients about all their healthcare options, and doctors should not be criminalized for providing constitutionally protected care."

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and other Democrats argued that the bill is a continuation of what they say is the Republican "war on women."

"It is another Republican intrusion into a woman's right to choose," said McDermott of the GOP bill. "Women should be able to make such sensitive and private decisions with their families, their doctors and their god, free from the fear of the police."

Republicans rejected these statements, saying one cannot be pro-woman and be against a bill that seeks to protect girls from being aborted.

"I think it's hypocrisy to say that one is pro-woman, and that it's OK to end the life of an unborn child just because of its gender," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said.

The sponsor of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), said his bill would put pressure on doctors not to perform these doctors, and is consistent with the former U.S. position at the United Nations.

"In 2007, the United States spearheaded a U.N. resolution to condemn sex-selective abortion worldwide," he said. "Yet, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are the only advanced country left in the world that still doesn't restrict sex-selective abortion in any way."

Franks cited studies saying that Asian women who emigrate to the United States are known to practice sex-selective abortion, and said the country needs to do its part to stop this practice within its borders.

"This evil practice has now allowed thousands of little girls in America, and millions of little girls across the world, to be brutally dismembered, most of them in their second or third trimester, when they're capable of feeling extreme pain, simply because they were little girls instead of little boys," he said. "It has now brought humanity to a place where the three deadliest words on this earth are, 'it's a girl.' "

The Franks bill originally included language aimed at preventing abortions based on race, but it was removed earlier in the year. However, Franks said he hopes to revisit that issue at a later time.

"Because between 40 and 50 percent of African-American babies, nearly one in two, are killed by abortion … I believe with all of my heart that this bill should also prohibit race-targeted abortion, as it did when the bill was first introduced," he said.

"It is my hope that by protecting unborn children from being aborted based on their sex, that one day very soon, we will also recognize the humanity and justice of protecting unborn children regardless of their race or color as well."

The House finished debating the bill Wednesday afternoon, and is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. A two-thirds majority will be needed for passage; the bill is expected to fail due to Democratic opposition.