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May 31, 2012

Divisive Anti-Choice Bill Fails in the House

Anti-choice politicians who voted against prenatal care, equal pay, and contraceptive coverage fall short in passing sex-based attack on choice

Washington, D.C. – Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, credited grassroots pressure and public outrage for stopping anti-choice members of the U.S. House of Representatives from getting the necessary number of votes to pass a deceptive and divisive bill.

NARAL Pro-Choice America channeled more than 23,000 messages to the House urging lawmakers to vote against the legislation. In addition, more than 100 civil rights, faith, and medical groups also opposed the bill.

The lawmakers behind H.R.3541, including its author, anti-choice Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), wrongly described the legislation as a symbol of women’s rights. However, the bill does nothing to end sex discrimination or gender inequity, and many lawmakers who supported it also opposed equal pay and near-universal prenatal care. Under House rules, the bill required the support of two-thirds of the chamber’s members. It failed to garner the necessary number of votes.

“The Franks bill exploits the very real problems of sex discrimination and gender inequity while failing to offer any genuine solutions that would eliminate disparities in health-care access and information,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Rather than attacking a woman’s right to choose, lawmakers with a sincere interest in addressing gender discrimination should support policies that work to combat the bias and stereotypes that continue to plague our society. This alternative approach would unify – not divide – our country and could achieve important advances without taking away any woman’s right to make her own personal, private medical decisions.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America has long opposed reproductive coercion in any form—including societal pressures to have a child of a particular sex, but the Franks bill is a divisive, unworkable measure. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act could subject a doctor to up to five years in prison for failing to determine if sex is a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. The bill also imposes the same criminal penalty on any person who accompanies a woman across state lines to seek such services. In addition, it threatens any medical professional who does not report even a suspected case of sex-selection abortion with a one-year prison sentence, as well as the loss of federal funds for any facility in which such an abortion is provided.  

Keenan also said Rep. Franks and many of the other lawmakers supporting this bill have voted against the equal-pay bill; voted not to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program; and backed efforts to cut funding for prenatal care and domestic and international family-planning programs that improve women’s ability to get basic health-care services.

 “Many of the bill’s supporters have rejected equal pay for women and have tried to slash funding for programs that serve women and children,” Keenan said. “Their hypocrisy represents cynical politics at their worst, and that’s why they failed to convince their colleagues to join them.”

Keenan also said the vote on this legislation is yet another example of how the anti-choice leaders in the House are out of touch with the country’s values and priorities. In 2011, the House held eight votes on choice-related issues (the highest number since 2000). Thus far, anti-choice House leaders have lined up no fewer than five separate bills with anti-abortion provisions for floor action this session.

“The bottom line is that elections matter,” Keenan said. “We will work to elect more pro-choice candidates to the House so harmful, deceptive bills fail at every turn. Today’s vote illustrates just how low anti-choice politicians will go in advancing their agenda at the expense of our country’s values and priorities.”

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