House To Vote On Unnecessary, Unenforceable, Completely Symbolic Abortion Bill

Later today the House of Representatives is going to be voting on a bill to ban abortions performed for reasons of “gender-selection” even though there is no real evidence that any such abortions are being performed in the United States:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House faced a vote Thursday on legislation to ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus, putting Congress squarely in the middle of partisan jockeying for the women’s vote in the fall elections.

“It is violence against women,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., of abortions of female fetuses, which happens most commonly in Asian countries, such as India and China, where there is cultural preference for boys. “This is the real war on women.”

It was uncertain whether Republican supporters had the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill under procedural rules. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., the author of the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, said the vote would have political ramifications whether it passed or failed. “When people vote on this, the world will know where they really stand.”

“This type of sex selection, most Americans find pretty repulsive, and our members feel strongly about it. That’s why it’s being brought to the floor,” House Speaker John Boehner said.

Opponents of the legislation, including the White House, Democratic lawmakers, abortion rightsgroups and some Asian-American organizations, say it could lead to racial profiling of Asian-Americans and subject doctors to criminal charges if they do not report sex-selection abortions to law enforcement. Even if it passes the House, it has little chance of seeing action in the Democratic-controlled Senate.


The legislation would make it a federal offense, subject to up to five years in prison, to perform, solicit funds for or coerce a woman into having a sex-selection abortion. Bringing a woman into the country to obtain such an abortion would also be punishable by up to five years in prison. While doctors would not have an affirmative responsibility to ask a woman her motivations for an abortion, health workers could be imprisoned for up to a year for not reporting known or suspected violations of the ban on sex-based abortions.

The fact that the bill specifically states that doctors will not have a duty to interrogate patients as to the reasons that they may be seeking an abortion, of course, means that the law is completely unenforceable and that there is a high potential that it did become law it would be applied in an arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory manner. More importantly, there is simply no evidence that these types of abortions are an issue in the United States at all, and no way of proving what a woman’s motivation is when she is seeking an abortion.

Of course, this really has nothing to do with banning anything. In fact, since the bill is being brought to the floor under a suspension of normal rules, it would need 2/3 of the House to vote in favor of it to even make on to the Senate. That’s not going to happen, but what this bill would do is give Republicans and their allies an opening to claim, falsely, that the Democrats who vote against it are in favor of aborting baby girls. I can already see the commercials, I think you can too.

I guess what I’m wondering is, when did Congress manage to fix all of our fiscal problems so that it would have time to deal with nonsense like this?

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DRS says:

    Well, if it passes, the next bill will ban abortions for reasons of disability (Downs Syndrome, etc.). After all, no one is in favour of killing disabled children, right? And the decline of the republic continues…

  2. Hey Norm says:

    This is the most worthless House of Representatives that has ever existed. Ever.

  3. Andy says:

    There is a similar principle here to the thread on soft drink sizes in New York. The fact is that the government cannot, with any reliability, determine why a woman wants an abortion – therefore it is incapable of actually banning sex-selected abortion. For the same reason it’s very difficult to determine how many women get abortions for this reason.

    Likewise, it’s simply not possible for government to reliably enforce portion-size restrictions on soft drinks. Banning large drinks, like this abortion bill, is primarily symbolic.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    This is what the Tea Party is really about…radical social issues…anyone who ever thought they cared one bit about fiscal matters is nuts. It all uteruses all the time with these wingnuts. They love them some small government…until it comes to regulating womens reproductive parts. What a pathetic bunch of rich white folk.

  5. Anonne says:

    What number (as in how many) bill is this? Haven’t there been like a dozen abortion bills this year? Jeez. How about doing something to create actual jobs?

  6. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Hey Norm: That is one screwed-up prism you have on reality. Tell me, do they offer tourist visas to NormieLand?

    HERE people are allowed to “choose.” Nowhere else.

    You know, folks like to argue that homosexuality is genetic. If that turns out to be true, won’t that be fun when women start choosing to abort gay fetuses.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Best “let me wage war on a woman’s right to control her reproductive health care choices” quote of the day.

    “It is violence against women,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., of abortions of female fetuses, which happens most commonly in Asian countries, such as India and China, where there is cultural preference for boys. “This is the real war on women.”

    So how are the Abortion Police determining that a woman is purposely ending a pregnancy based on the sex of the fetus, anyway?

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Hey Norm:

    This is the most worthless House of Representatives that has ever existed. Ever.

    And yet American voters swept these morons into control of the House in 2010, and they may yet give the morons control of the Senate and the White House in 2012. So much for “wisdom of The People.”

  9. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: So who should decide if a woman goes through with her pregnancy? You? Your political party? A bunch of panty sniffers who call themselves Christians?

    Oh, wait, that’s redundant, isn’t it.

    Once again, Jenos is in favor of freedom — except for anyone who isn’t exactly like him.

  10. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: Dumbass, I’m not saying what my position on abortion is. I’m just asking — if homosexuality is determined to be genetic, should a woman be permitted to abort a fetus she discovers will be gay?

  11. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: I’d like to apologize for calling you a “dumbass.”

    By doing so here, I’m implying that there are times when you aren’t being a dumbass, and that is inaccurate.

  12. llama says:

    When Republicans took control. Remember “fixing fiscal problems” just means giving as much free money to rich people as they can at the moment. They are running on a platform of exploding the deficit so that rich people and the welfare queens on wall street and corporate america can get the free money they truly deserve.

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    @al-Ameda: How about using the same way a lot of discrimination cases are settled — statistics?

    It turns out when nature is allowed to take its course, there should be 1.05 girl babies for every 1 boy baby. If that ratio gets too far out of whack, then it’s pretty strong evidence that some sex selection is going on. Oh, you can’t prove individual actions of sex-based discrimination, but you can tell when there’s a pattern going on.

  14. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    In your case, I’d vote for retroactive abortion.

    And, you have the sex ratio at birth backwards. There are more males at birth than females.

  15. DRS says:

    Guys, why do you keep letting Jenos manipulate you into losing control of the thread? He’s done it quite a few times and it’s really tedious. I think he’s an idiot too, but it just doesn’t make sense to pay attention to him.

  16. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Rufus T. Firefly: A bit mean-spirited, but your statement is correct: I did reverse the sex ratios. Probably my sublimated harem fantasies. Thank you.

    But let’s apply the same principles to other forms of discrimination to abortion. Should the sex ratio get too far out of whack, we simply require that it be corrected. If that means women carrying girl fetuses are denied abortions, or women carrying male fetuses are required to abort, then so be it. (Assuming, of course, a case where we end up like China and with a very disproportionate number of males.)

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    So there is no actual evidence that women are getting their sonograms, and deciding to abport male fetuses?

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    @DRS: I guess I just have a gift for perpetuating the discussion, expanding it into areas others would not think to go.

    The theme was “should we consider the motivations behind a woman’s right to choose.” I tossed out a few examples that I thought would be thought-provoking, challenging people’s presumptions and preconceptions and biases.

    Personally, I think that if the “gay gene” is ever identified, it’ll be hilarious to see how the militant pro-choice and pro-life camps react.

  19. Fun game: Where exactly does the Constitution authorize this proposed law?

  20. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Timothy Watson: It’s in the penumbras of the inferred rights.

  21. @Jenos Idanian: Actually, the Constitutional authorization statement that’s required as part of the bill cites, inter alia, the commerce clause.

    If abortion (and other medical practices), which are for the most part regulated by the states, can be regulated in this fashion by the federal government under the INTERSTATE commerce clause, what exactly can’t be regulated in such a manner?

    (See what I did there…)

  22. @Timothy Watson:

    I certainly do, sir. I certainty do.

  23. Scott O. says:

    @Timothy Watson: Excellent!

  24. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: No one cares what your position on abortion is. Like all your other positions, it’s whatever you think will make the other team look bad. And you’ll change it in a flash if you think that will help you “win.”

    Astonishingly, you seem to think people admire you for this.

  25. @Timothy Watson: If you’d managed to insert the term “job killing” somewhere, the satire would’ve been perfect.

  26. J-Dub says:

    This seems like a case of the powerful rich Republicans distracting the stupid poor Republicans to garner their blind support.

    “Don’t worry about my annual bonus that used to be your pension fund, the Democrats are aborting baby girls!”

  27. J-Dub says:

    This is why I always fly non-stop to California. I don’t want to be any closer than 20,000 feet to middle america.