The House of Representatives has just voted 246–168 in favor of H.R. 3541, Representative Trent Franks’s bill to ban sex-selection abortions in the United States. While the margin supporting the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act was nearly 80-members strong, the bill did not pass because it was brought up under rules requring a two-thirds vote of members present to secure passage. This is the first time the Congress has held a floor vote on the sex-selection issue, but it is extremely unlikely to be the last. That is because the issue involves not only the most extreme form of abortion — second-trimester or later procedures — but also the most extreme “reason” to end a pregnancy — because the child is not of the desired sex.
Sex-selection abortions are a worldwide phenomenon and, while they have occurred in truly seismic proportions in Asian nations, the temblors of the practice have spread worldwide in recent decades. As demographer Nicholas Eberstadt has thoroughly documented in a report published last fall at The New Atlantis, elevated sex ratios at birth (the number of boys born per year over the number of girls, with 100 as the denominator), indicating delberate steps to avoid having female children, are occurring in Cuba, Puerto Rico (U.S. territory, obviously), and El Salvador, as well as in a number of European nations. The phenomenon is restricted neither along ethnic nor religious lines, and elevated sex ratios at the unnatural level of 107/100 were found as recentlly as 2007 even in Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
Several studies, including examinations of U.S. Census data by scholars at Columbia University and the University of California-San Francisco bring home the reality that sex-selection abortion is happening in the United States as well. It has appeared among a number of ethnic subpopulations in the United States and, if the European pattern ensues, others to come. Despite this, only four states have moved so far to ban the practice, and some are so entrenched in abortion absolutism (read: California and New York) that they may never act to prevent the deliberate killing of girls prenatally. Congress has the right, coupled with the high duty, to act against such a gross violation of fundamental human rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Today’s vote, which included 20 Democrats voting for the bill and, sadly, seven Republicans, including Ron Paul, voting against it, is a landmark moment in the history of the House.
Mara Hvistendahl’s account of the development of what she calls “unnatural selection” estimates the number of missing girls worldwide at 163,000,000. Eberstadt labels this, appropriately, a “global war on baby girls,” with the sex ratio at birth skewed for the entire planet. And there should be no mistake how the practice of sex selection arrived in Asia. Son preference there and elsewhere may be completely homegrown, but the technology to carry out sex identification prenatally and the will to impose top-down abortion policies in the interest of population control, as Hvistendahl minutely documents, were exports from the West to the East. Organizations from the Population Council to International Planned Parenthood bear responsibility for this calculated attack on females as the “high-yield” approach to rapid depopulation campaigns. Sterilize a man and other men can still impregnate multiple females. Discard baby girls and whole future generations of girls and women are delimited.
House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer deplored the vote on the Franks bill, saying that no one supports sex-selection abortion. But the problem is that millions of people, in our world of billions, do support it, and they routinely pressure women into enduring these violent procedures that destroy members of their own sex. Today Hoyer and 167 of his House colleagues sided with them, fretting about bogus burdens on doctors, whose only task under the bill is to say “no” if explicitly requested to conduct a sex-selection abortion. Live Action’s Lila Rose has freshly documented what is happening now when such requests are made in some U.S. clinics.
Hoyer also laments that the Franks bill is “political” and not a “substantive effort.” On that he is demonstrably wrong, but the best way for congressional leaders to dispel all doubt on that subject is to pass the bill now under a regular rule, and allow it to synergize the cultural forces that, alongside sound public policy, can make sex-selection abortion undoable as well as unthinkable.
Over the next few months, the House and Senate will have many opportunities to add the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act to a must- or likely-to-pass measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. The president of the United States has two daughters. So does the author of this article. It may be hard for us to imagine our wives being pressured to end the lives of one of our daughters by our government, our culture, or our families, but it is happening across the globe to other families, other daughters, every day.
What standing will the United States ever have to speak against this lethal form of sex discrimination if we do not draw the line here and now — in our house? Congress should promptly pass this bill, and President Obama should promptly lay down his abortion absolutism for just one moment and sign it.