The House fell short in an effort to ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus today, as Republicans and Democrats made an election-year appeal for women's votes. The legislation would have made it a federal crime, subject to up to five years in prison, to perform or force a woman to undergo a sex-based abortion, a practice most common in some Asian countries where families wanting sons abort female fetuses. Republicans tried to depict the vote as a women's rights issue. "It is violence against women," said Rep. Chris Smith, of abortions of female fetuses. "This is the real war on women."
But the White House, most Democrats, abortion rights groups, and some Asian-American organizations opposed the bill, saying it could lead to racial profiling of Asian-American women and subject doctors who do not report suspected sex-selection abortions to criminal charges.The bill had little chance of becoming law. The Democratic-controlled Senate would likely have ignored it, and the House brought it up under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. The vote was 246-168, 30 votes short of that majority. Twenty Democrats voted for it, while seven Republicans opposed it. (Read more abortion stories.)