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House Shoots Down Ban on Sex-Selective Abortions

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo

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Updated: 3:35 p.m.

The House defeated a bill today to ban sex-selective abortion, a controversial measure opposed by President Barack Obama and abortion rights activists.

Though it received a majority of the votes in the chamber, the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass and failed on a 246-168 vote.

A GOP aide said there are no plans to bring the measure up for another vote.

Seven Republicans voted against the GOP measure, which was first introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) three years ago and 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.”

Speaker John Boehner said it is an important vote.

“Ours Members feel strongly about it,” the Ohio Republican told reporters before the vote. “This is an important issue to the American people. This type of sex-selection most Americans find pretty repulsive.”

Meanwhile, 20 Democrats, many of them anti-abortion conservative Blue Dog Democrats, voted in favor despite strong opposition from Democratic leaders.

Democratic leaders said the bill was no more than a political ploy to force them to make a tough vote that could be held against them on Election Day.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking with reporters earlier in the day, said she was joining groups representing health care providers that oppose the bill and suggested it was introduced for political reasons.

“The maker of the motion has said he brought it to the floor for a purpose that was not exactly scientific. So I think it should be treated that way. I will oppose it,” the California Democrat said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who voted against the bill but kept with the policy of not whipping abortion measures, said after the vote that he thinks it opens up the party to political attacks from abortion opponents.

“Sure it’s a political attack,” the Maryland Democrat said. “That’s the world in which we live unfortunately, but it is simplistic and wrong. I think the voters are sophisticated enough to see that, and I think they’ll see the politics of it as well.”

Indeed, Franks acknowledged the bill is a political winner for House Republicans.

“If [Obama] wants to say he favors allowing little girls to be aborted because they’re little girls, I suppose that’s his political prerogative,” Franks said Wednesday. “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.”

Still, Members of Franks’ party voted against the bill. They were: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Charles Bass (N.H.), Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) and Ron Paul (Texas).

In the end, the measure also failed to gain the support of some Democrats who are against abortion.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, for instance, said she thinks the bill is superfluous, as the Hyde Amendment already bans the use of certain federal funds for abortions.

“I found it unnecessary,” the Ohio Democrat said. “The Hyde Amendment is the governing law of the land, and it is sufficient. ... The government shouldn’t make decisions for any family regardless of what that decision is and it shouldn’t be involved in funding it unless the life of the mother is at stake, rape or incest.”

The Obama administration has stated its opposition to the bill, a White House spokesman told “ABC News” on Wednesday.

“The administration opposes gender discrimination in all forms, but the end result of this legislation would be to subject doctors to criminal prosecution if they fail to determine the motivations behind a very personal and private decision,” Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith said in a statement. “The government should not intrude in medical decisions or private family matters in this way.”

Females are often the targets of abortions based on gender, but the problem is most prevalent in countries such as India and China, where male children are considered more valuable and desirable.

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