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House rejects ban on sex-selection abortion, but GOP makes its point (+video)

A GOP bill to abolish abortion if sex selection is the reason failed to clear the US House on Thursday. But Republicans were able, for a day, to turn the tables on Democrats in the 'war on women,' saying the bill sought to save baby girls.

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While the bill fell short, its defenders and critics disagreed sharply about what exactly the measure would have accomplished. The bill would make it illegal to perform an abortion "knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of the child." However, the legislation tilted culpability toward doctors, noting that "[a] woman upon whom a sex-selection abortion is performed may not be prosecuted or held civilly liable for any violation."

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David Grant is a content strategist and former Monitor writer who covered Congress in Washington, D.C. A Virginia Tech graduate, he's also passionate about the Hokies, the Middle East and basketball.

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Democrats argued that this put doctors in the role of playing moral arbiter. ABC News's Jake Tapper reported that the White House opposed the bill for just such reasons.

"[T]he 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," said White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday.

The NRLC, however, pointed to language in the bill that absolved health-care providers from having "an affirmative duty to inquire as to the motivation for the abortion, absent the healthcare provider having knowledge or information that the abortion is being sought based on the sex or gender of the child.”

At the issue's core is this question: Are many sex-selection abortions performed in the United States?

The bill's proponents pointed to a study showing that analysis of the third child born to Chinese, Indian, and Korean parents in the United States "strongly suggest[s]" prenatal sex selection. However, a review of the legislation by the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights, argues that such practices are not widespread in the the United States overall and that the studies offered by Representative Franks and allied lawmakers cannot prove that abortions for the purpose of sex-selection are a significant problem even in particular immigrant communities.

"What is conclusively known," wrote Guttmacher's Sneha Barot, "is that the U.S. sex ratio at birth in 2005 stood at 105 boys to 100 girls, squarely within biologically normal parameters."


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