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First-PERSON: A disappointing day in the House

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- The U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass legislation that would have made it illegal to abort an unborn child because of the baby's sex. Abortions based on sex are widely practiced in India and China, and the vast majority of babies aborted due to sex selection are female.

There are indications the practice of sex-selection abortion is beginning to rear its ugly head in the United States, due in part to the rise of immigrants from Asia and India. As a result, Rep. Trent Franks (R.-Ariz.) introduced HR 3541, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA). Franks indicated the purpose of his bill was to ensure equal rights for unborn children -- boys and girls.

The failure of the bill is, to say the least, disappointing. However, the manner in which the House chose to deal with the legislation is also disappointing. Rather than handle the bill in the usual manner, the bill was considered under "suspension of the rules" which makes controversial legislation, like abortion measures, difficult to pass.

According to House protocol, suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills. Under suspension of the rules, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter and a super-majority of two-thirds of members present and voting is required to pass the motion.

Suspension of the rules may be appropriate for non-controversial legislation. However, any bill that seeks to limit abortion for any reason is going to be deemed controversial among legislators in Washington, D.C. Such was the case with Franks' bill.


The bill first was debated in the House Judiciary Committee where it was met with stiff Democrat opposition. It passed out of committee with a vote strictly along party lines of 20-13.

The fact that PRENDA dealt with the restriction of abortion automatically rendered the legislation controversial. Adding to the contention was the fact that the bill was passed out of committee with only Republican support. As a result, I have to ask, "What was Speaker of the House John Boehner thinking when he allowed it to be addressed under suspension of the rules where it would require a two-thirds vote in order to pass?"

When the votes were counted, PRENDA was 30 votes short of the super-majority needed for passage. The final tally was 246 in favor, 168 against. Twenty Democrats voted for the legislation and seven Republicans voted against it. Seventeen members of the House did not vote.

Given that PRENDA was handled under "suspension of the rules," it seemed to be more political posturing than a serious attempt at passing legislation designed to curtail abortion -- abortion that is especially aimed at unborn baby girls. Perhaps the entire House should be chastised for dealing with PRENDA in such a cavalier manner.


Even though PRENDA was handled legislatively in a manner that made it difficult to pass, it is still instructive to learn that 168 elected member of the House of Representatives went on the record opposing a bill designed specifically to protect primarily baby girls from being aborted.

Even though a 2006 Zogby International poll found 86 percent of Americans believe sex-selection abortion should be illegal, reported Baptist Press, 40 percent of the U.S. House voted to allow it to continue.

The term "pro-choice" in relation to abortion was first used in the mid-1970s. It was nothing more than "sloganeering to avoid the harshness of 'pro-abortion,'" observed journalist William Safire.

Support for a woman's ability to "choose" sounds better from a public relations stand point than arguing for her right to have an abortion. The most ardent advocates of abortion now believe a woman should be able to "choose" to have an abortion for any reason -- or for no reason -- and at any time during pregnancy, with no limits.

According to 168 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, it is OK for a woman to abort her unborn child for the purposes of sex-selection. Additionally, the entire House dealt with the issue in a manner usually used for benign legislation deemed uncontroversial, making it difficult to pass. As far as I am concerned, both moves were disappointing.


Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( and in your email ( To see how your representative voted, visit

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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