House debates bill to ban sex-selective abortions

House members launched into a contentious debate Wednesday over a bill that would ban abortions performed on the basis of gender-selection.

Though sex-selective abortions are typically thought of as a problem in countries like China, bill author Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said Democrats and Republicans in the House agree that sex-selection abortions are occurring in the United States.

"The people of this country are overwhelmingly for this bill, and liberals are going to have to make up their mind whether they are so committed to abortion on demand that they think that includes killing little girls because they are little girls," Franks said.

Under his proposal, physicians who perform sex-selective abortions would face heavy fines and up to five years in jail.

The House, after closing out debate late Wednesday afternoon, is expected to vote on the proposal Thursday. It needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

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    Though few would advocate sex-selective abortions, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer voiced concern Wednesday about the impact the bill would have on doctors.

    "It puts doctors in a very untenable position," Hoyer said, noting that doctors would have to either ask about or surmise the purpose of an abortion.

    Hoyer stressed that he doesn't know anybody who supports abortion based on gender, "period."

    The debate launches at the same time pro-life group Live Action released a hidden camera video taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. In the video, a woman posing as an expectant mother asks for advice about getting an abortion -- but indicates she only wants to terminate her pregnancy if she's carrying a girl.

    After receiving advice on how to get an ultrasound and then late-term abortion, which is legal, the woman is sent off by the staff member who says, "I hope that you do get your boy."

    Planned Parenthood has termed the video a "hoax," and issued a statement indicating the staff member in the video is no longer employed by the clinic. The organization also notes that all other employees at the clinic were "immediately scheduled for retraining in managing unusual patient encounters."

    Lila Rose, president of Live Action, said pro-choice groups are fighting the bill and trying to minimize the issue "because they don't want to get people focused on the fact that they're willing to support sex-selective abortions."

    The groups claim their opposition is based on the fact that the measure is designed to "intimidate" doctors who perform abortions and also aimed at defunding groups like Planned Parenthood.

    The bill contains language that would strip federal funding from any clinic found in violation of the measure.

    Miriam Yeung, director of The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, worries that the proposed law would also subject Asian-American women seeking abortions to inappropriate screening because of the stereotype that male children are preferred in Asian families.

    "The decisions of Asian-American women, in particular, would be extra scrutinized," she said.