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War for Women Takes House

GOP Vies for Vote, Introduces Bill to Ban Sex-Selective Abortion

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (left) attended a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on Rep. Rosa Delauro’s pay equity legislation on Wednesday.

As both parties vie for the all-important female vote, the trench warfare on issues affecting women will continue this week as the House votes on a GOP-sponsored abortion bill and Democrats push pay equity legislation.

Despite rhetorical wars over working women vs. stay-at-home mothers and legislative battles over the Violence Against Women Act, it’s unclear whether either side is making any political gains, but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying.

With a traditional advantage among women, Democrats have largely been the aggressors thus far on the issue, attacking the Republican version of VAWA, for instance.

But Republicans have upped the ante by bringing to the floor a bill to ban sex-selective abortion.

The legislation, first introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) three years ago, would punish doctors with up to five years in prison for performing an abortion if the doctor knows it “is sought based on the sex or gender of the child.” Females are often the targets of sex-
selective abortions throughout the world, and Republicans appear to be trying to both give their base a red-meat issue and burnish their bona fides on sex discrimination.

Franks argued passionately for the merits of his bill, comparing abortion to American slavery and the Holocaust. But he also predicted it would be a political winner, as were GOP bills to ban late-term abortions.

“If [President Barack Obama] wants to say he favors allowing little girls to be aborted because they’re little girls, I suppose that’s his political prerogative. But I think the last thing the president wants to do is to let the American people know where he really is on this issue of life and death for the innocent,” Franks said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he thinks the vote is coming for political, rather than substantive, reasons, adding that “nobody that I know, nobody that I’ve every talked to, is for abortions for the purposes of gender selection. Period.”

“This is coming up because somebody decided that, politically, this is a difficult place to put people in. Any interpretation [that anyone] voting against this bill is therefore for abortions for the purpose of selecting gender would be wrong,” he said. Many Democrats are apt to oppose it because they believe it puts doctors in a difficult position and is an attempt to erode
women’s abortion rights.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said, “This [is] yet another distraction and yet another day that this Republican majority fails to act on job creation.”

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