WASHINGTON (BP) -- The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a proposal to prohibit abortions based on a baby's sex.

House members were expected to vote on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, H.R. 3541, either Wednesday night (May 30) or Thursday. Passage will require a two-thirds majority because the House will consider the measure under "suspension of the rules."

The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) urged its constituents in a May 29 email alert to ask their representatives to support the ban.

In the email, ERLC President Richard Land said the proposal constitutes "basic civil rights protection for the unborn."

"Astonishingly, no such federal ban on sex-selection abortion exists -- even as studies show these types of abortions are occurring here in the United States," Land said.

"It is high time that Congress enacts this common-sense ban."

While China and, to a lesser extent, India have become known in recent decades for the practice of sex-selection abortion by parents in an attempt to have a male baby after the birth of a girl, there is evidence of such a pattern among some immigrant communities in North America.

A March 2008 study published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences found American-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian-Indian parents were more likely than those of white parents to be boys if the first children in the families were girls, according to ABC News. The third child in such communities was 50 percent more likely to be a boy if the first two children were girls.

Elsewhere, studies have shown that Canadians from some Asian countries who already have daughters are aborting unborn females in an attempt to ensure their next child is a male, according to a January editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The House vote will occur the same week a Planned Parenthood employee was shown on an undercover video seeking to help a woman who indicated she wanted a sex-selection abortion.

The legislation would criminalize the following actions:

-- Knowingly performing an abortion based on the sex of the child.

-- Using or threatening force to coerce a sex-selection abortion.

-- Seeking or receiving money to perform such an abortion.

--Transporting a woman across state lines or into this country for a sex-selection abortion.

A woman who undergoes a sex-selection abortion could not be prosecuted under the law.

The maximum sentence for violating the law would be five years in prison.

The House will vote on a revised version of a bill approved by the Judiciary Committee in a 20-13, party-line vote in February. Republicans were in the majority. That proposal banned abortions based on both sex and race. The latest version bans only sex-selection abortions.

According to a Zogby International poll in March of last year, 86 percent of Americans believe sex-selection abortions should be illegal.

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Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Representatives can be reached through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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