UPDATE: The House rejected this bill.

Debate began in the House of Representatives yesterday on H.R. 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA). The bill, sponsored by Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), would impose fines or imprison doctors who perform desired abortions due to the fetus’s gender and bar federal funding for organizations that do not comply.

According to the World Health Organization, sex-selective abortion is becoming more frequent in southern, eastern, and central Asian countries. Anti-choice groups presented studies during deliberation claiming that the practice is also increasing in North America. Douglas Johnson, the Legislative Director at the National Right to Life Committee, told The Hill that “this particular bill puts in the spotlight a systematic and egregious form of violence against women and their daughters.”

However, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, international consensus is that nations working to end this practice should change the underlying problems that contribute to sex-selective abortions, rather than criminalize them. These efforts have been successful in South Korea, for instance, where officials saw a decrease in the unbalanced male-female birth ratio after passing several laws expanding women’s rights.

The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and the Black Women’s Health Imperative wrote a joint blog post on the Huffington Post claiming the law targets women of color, particularly Asian-American women by placing them under increased questioning and scrutiny.

On February 16, 13 of 33 House Judiciary Committee Members voted against PRENDA.  At that time it contained language aiming to ban race discrimination as well. The House will be voting on the bill tomorrow under suspension of the House rules. A Democratic aide informed The Hill that the House Republican Conference is therefore breaking its own rule, which states no bill will be considered under suspension of rules if “opposed by more than one-third” of the committee that reported it. Two-thirds of the House will have to vote for the bill in order for it to pass.

Photo by Flickr user World Can’t Wait under license from Creative Commons 2.0.