The House of Representatives failed to reach a necessary two-thirds majority this afternoon to pass a bill that would have banned sex-selective abortions.
Democrats tried to frame Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) bill as another shot fired in the “war on women,” while Republicans stressed that the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act was a vital step to stem a growing trend that had received condemnation from the U.S. abroad but not at home.
“This evil practice has now allowed thousands of little girls in America and million across the world to be brutally dismembered… simply because they were little girls instead of little boys,” Franks said during yesterday’s floor debate, noting the trends was being seen within but not limited to the Asian-American community.
“What in God’s name have we come to?” he added.
After the five-minute vote ended, there were more Democratic defectors than Republican ones. Among the bill’s 98 co-sponsors were Blue Dog Dems Dan Boren (Okla.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).
Out of the lower chamber, 414 members showed up to vote, with a final tally of 246-168. To pass with this number present, the bill would have needed 30 more votes than it received.
Franks told his colleagues before the vote that he knows “Congress deals with many controversial issues,” but he refused to believe that the chamber couldn’t muster “enough humanity” to pass the measure.
Twenty Democrats supported the bill, including Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who’s challenging Richard Mourdock for Sen. Richard Lugar’s seat. Seven Republicans voted against it. They were Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Those Democrats who stayed in party ranks tried to paint a wicked picture of the GOP not trying to save lives, but trying to chip away at Roe v. Wade “under the guise of non-discrimination” and of violating women’s rights.
“The Republicans have set up another straw man,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said. “It’s about as cynical and deceptive as anything I’ve seen on the floor.”
“Today the Republicans continue their war on women in a new and creative way… it is cynical, but creative,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky said that the bill would send “an incredibly private and personal decision into the courts” and the length of the litigation would “force” a woman to carry out her pregnancy. Schakowsky then cited today’s 3rd anniversary of the murder of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller in Kansas, hailing the man. “His motto was ‘trust women,’” the congresswoman said. “This bill is just the latest strike by Republicans in the war on women.”
The measure needed a two-thirds majority because it was brought up under a suspension of the rules. The usual purpose of bringing a bill to the floor in this manner is to quickly plow through non-controversial measures, like naming post offices or honoring famous Americans; Franks’ bill was anything but that. The speaker of the House determines which bills can move to a vote under a suspension of the rules.
The bill was originally named the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) lauded Republicans for shortening the name of the bill. “I’m glad we won’t have to listen to that anymore,” he said of the comparison of abortion to slavery.
“This bill is not about civil rights,” charged Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). “It’s part of the Republican war on women, also known as WOW, as in ‘wow, they continue to attack women.’”
“It’s a political season so that’s what they’re doing with this bill,” Johnson continued. “They’re pitting the men against the women… it’s really part of the divide-and-conquer approach that has been successful for these Republicans.”
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) retorted that sex-selective abortion is “the ultimate war on women.”
“There can be no rights for women if we don’t allow them the right to life,” she said.