The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2016, a law to prohibit abortions based on the sex of a child. Here are five things you should know about the legislation and about sex-selection abortion:
1. The version of the PRENDA bill currently in the Senate defines "sex-selection abortion" as an abortion undertaken to eliminate an unborn child based on the sex or gender of the child. This legislation would impose criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly acts or attempts to: (1) perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of the child, (2) use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection abortion, (3) solicit or accept funds for the performance of such an abortion, or (4) transport a woman into the United States or across a state line for the purpose of obtaining such an abortion.
2. Across the globe, sex-selection abortion is used primarily to target girls. In China alone there is estimated to be in excess of 160 million “missing” baby girls — more than the entire population of women in the U.S. While neglect and infanticide account for some of the disparity, sex-selective abortion (combined with China’s previous “one-child” policy) is a primary reason the country has 33 million more men than women.
3. Empirical data shows the existence of sex-selective practices among foreign-born Chinese, Indians, and Koreans in the U.S., notes Anna Higgins of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. One study found that third births among families with two daughters displayed a ratio of 151 boys to 100 girls. A similar study in Canada found that by the third birth, 138 boys were born to Indian-born mothers for every 100 girls, and by the fourth birth, 166 boys were born to every 100 girls. (A normal ratio would be around 105 boys to 100 girls.)
4. Sex selection can also occur in the process of in-vitro fertilization. Prenatal discrimination occurs at the pre-implantation stage when embryos are selected for implantation in the mother’s womb, and the embryos of the wrong sex (usually females) are destroyed or discarded.
5. Discrimination on the basis of sex is almost always considered a violation of the fundamental Constitutional liberty of equal protection under the law. "[G]ender-based classifications," wrote Justice Harry Blackmun in J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel T.B. (1994), "require 'an exceedingly persuasive justification' in order to survive constitutional scrutiny." But there is currently no federal law prohibiting “gendercide” through the use of abortion. As Higgins notes, “Sex-selective bans not only prohibit discrimination against a person based on sex – a compelling governmental interest – they also protect the pregnant woman from cultural or familial pressure to have an abortion by penalizing such coercion.”