PRENDA Dies in House as GOP Continues to Divert Attention From Real Problems by Instead Attacking Women

See all our coverage of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) here and all our coverage of sex selection here.

A change to this article was made at 4:13 pm, June 1, 2012 to correct an error; the earlier version attributed the quotes in this piece to the National Women’s Law Center when they actually came from the press release of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

The so-called Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), today failed to get the two-thirds vote it would have needed under House rules for passing legislation under suspension. The vote was 246-168.

“Today,” said the National Partnership for Women and Families in a statement after the vote, “a minority in the House of Representatives managed to block passage of shameful legislation that would have criminalized abortion on the basis of sex.”

This bill had nothing whatsoever to do with stopping discrimination or improving women’s health, but instead was about advancing a radical anti-choice agenda. It was a thinly veiled attempt to make it more difficult for women to seek abortion care and imprison doctors who provide that care. It is frightening that 246 members voted for this bill; every representative who voted ‘yes’ should examine his or her conscience, attitudes toward women, and priorities.”

Gender discrimination is a real problem in the United States, noted the National Partnership, “but making essential health care less accessible is not a solution to that problem, which is why most leading women’s and civil rights organizations lined up against this bill.”

“Instead of attempting to turn back the clock on women’s health care, Congress should focus on legislation that would make a real difference in the lives of women by: addressing discrimination against pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace; providing sufficient funding for comprehensive, evidence-based sex education; expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act; passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Healthy Families Act; and advancing real remedies to gender discrimination that are pending in Congress.”

I would recommend, for example, that if he finds he has a lot of time on his hands, Representative Franks might consider real efforts to address the maternal mortality crisis created by the lack of maternity care available to women of color and immigrant women in the United States. But then I remember… He’s from Arizona.

I would also recommend that he spend more time focused on actual ways to help get people back to work, make sure they have an adequate safety net, make sure kids have access to good schools, ensure that children are accessing health care under the Affordable Care Act, or ensuring that we are addressing the single greatest threat to women and girls, and everyone else… climate change.

But then I remember… He belongs to the GOP.

So instead of addressing real problems in the United States, Representative Franks and his cronies as well as some of those people who still like to call themselves Democrats actually spent time on and voted for a bill that was a not-at-all veiled attempt to restrict women’s rights to control their destinies by using another created panic based on non-existent data.

Good way to spend that taxpayer money, right?

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  • douglasjohnson

    Your headline says, “PRENDA Dies in the House.”  Actually, it did not die.  When a bill is brought up under the fast-track “Suspension of the Rules” procedure, and fails to receive the required two-thirds vote, as in this case, it still maintains its previous status.  In this case, that status is that it has already been approved by the committee of jurisdiction, and it could come before the House again at any time, through any of a variety of procedures.  The only things that have changed since two days ago are (1) President Obama came out against the bill, and (2) by a 78-vote margin, the House of Representatives is now on record in favor of its enactment.


    As to the underlying substantive issue, some of the readers here may wish to review the paper published last year in Social Science & Medicine by Dr. Sunita Puri and three co-researchers at the University of California, who interviewed “65 immigrant Indian women in the United States who had pursued fetal sex selection.”  They wrote: “We found that 40% of the women interviewed had terminated prior pregnancies with female fetuses and that 89% of women carrying female fetuses in their current pregnancy pursued an abortion.”  Thisl study discusses in detail the multiple forms of pressure and outright coercion to which such women are often subjected:  “Forty women (62%) described verbal abuse from their female in laws or husbands. . . . One-third of women described past physical abuse and neglect related specifically to their failing to produce a male child.”  As a result, “women reported having multiple closely spaced pregnancies with terminations of female fetuses under pressure to have a male child.”  (“‘There is such a thing as too many daughters, but not too many sons’,” Social Science & Medicine 72 (2011), 1169-1176)

    I suspect that many of the women who are being victimized in this way would welcome having the law on their side.  The law is, among other things, a teacher.

    We have posted links to other studies that demonstrate the scope of the problem in the United States on our website, including these:


    Study on evidence for prenatal sex selection in the United States — click here.

    Study on son-biased sex ratios in the 2000 United States Census (National Academy of Science) — click here 


    Study interviewing women who received sex-selection abortions — click here .

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee
    Washington, D.C.
    federallegislation //at// nrlc, dot, org

  • jodi-jacobson

    This bill is dead until the House leadership decides to bring it up again, just like any bill can be re-introduced or brought up again under various rules. It was voted down. Period.

    Secondly, no one disputes that there are sex-selective abortions in some immigrant communities. However, PRENDA is a not-at-all veiled attempt to restrict women’s rights, period, NOT to address the deep gender bias of which sex selection is only one expression. 

    Your goal is first to make abortion illegal and criminalized, and then to go onto contraception and god knows what else… It is not and has never been about “saving babies.” It is about and remains about a disgusting attempt to marginalize women, shame them for sex, force them into pregnancies and criminalize them and doctors that try to help them terminate unwanted pregnancies.

    We all know that, Mosher and Franks admitted this is what this bill is about, and its really kind of tired for you to come here and try to assert otherwise. Give it a rest. We know hypocrisy when we see it, and yours is on a billboard in Times Square.

  • karen-w

    Ms. Jacobson,

    It is obvious that abortions based on gender selection harm unborn women.  It is also accepted that abortions are physically dangerous (both short term and long term) and emotionally damaging.  If you want to use your voice to help women, why not be painfully honest and admit that you have no credible defense of your stated position?  It just sounds like an angry woman lashing out at society by demanding to have the freedom to inflict harm on herself and others.

  • prochoiceferret

    It is obvious that abortions based on gender selection harm unborn women.


    Yes, and it’s also obvious that surgeries based on cancer-treatment regimens harm unexcised tumors. What isn’t obvious is how you go from that to restricting or even prohibiting cancer surgery and/or abortion.


    It is also accepted that abortions are physically dangerous (both short term and long term) and emotionally damaging.


    Similarly, it is also accepted that Elvis is still alive… by people who have no expertise and little (if any) factual knowledge about Elvis and/or abortions.


    If you want to use your voice to help women, why not be painfully honest and admit that you have no credible defense of your stated position?


    Because then she would be lying through her teeth, just like you!


    It just sounds like an angry woman lashing out at society by demanding to have the freedom to inflict harm on herself and others.


    Sorry, but Ms. Jacobson is not secretly Sarah Palin.

  • jennifer-starr

    Simply stating that something is ‘obvious’ or ‘accepted’, doesn’t make it so, except in your own little mindset.