An effort to ban abortions based on sex selection stalled Tuesday in a Louisiana Senate committee.
Proponents of the House-passed “Prenatal Non-discrimination Act” couldn’t muster the votes needed to get it out of committee. The Senate Judiciary B Committee deadlocked on a 2-2 vote for motions both to defer and to advance the measure, which is being pushed nationally and in states by anti-abortion forces.
Three committee members were absent.
House Bill 701 sponsor Rep. Lenar Whitney, a Houma Republican, told The Associated Press that she’s not sure if she’ll try to get another hearing. Bill supporter Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said the legislation now faces “an uncertain fate.”
Clapper complained that pro-life forces were “hung out to dry” in the Senate when the bill was assigned to a committee led by pro-abortion Sen. J.P. Morrell, instead of the more friendly — on this issue — Health and Welfare Committee.
Whitney riled two committee members as she concluded testimony saying those who voted against the measure were “willing to kill baby girls.”
Otherwise, she said, “it’s an easy vote.”
“Do I look like a murderer?” state Sen. Karen Peterson asked. Whitney did not directly reply.
“We should be careful as we advocate,” Peterson said.
The panel then bottled up the bill.
HB701 cleared the House on an 81-2 vote. Twenty-two representatives were absent.
Whitney said the proposed law is aimed at stopping abortions performed because the unborn child is a girl instead of a boy.
The Houma Republican said more than 160 million girls are “missing” from society, primarily in Asian nations, because boys are the favored sex.
Whitney called sex selection abortions “the most violent form of discrimination against women.”
Opponents, such as medical school student Jennifer Chin, of New Orleans, said House Bill 701 is based on false stereotypes about the Asian American community.
They said that there is no evidence that sex selection is going on in Louisiana and the measure is just another attempt to stop legal abortions.
New Orleans lawyer Ellie Schilling said the legislation provides for no exceptions for rape or incest. In addition, she said the civil penalty provisions proposed are “drastic,” putting physicians at potential liability when there is no way of knowing whether the abortion is being done based on the sex of the unborn. If known, the sex of the unborn would have to be shared with the woman before the abortion takes place.
Schilling said it would have a “chilling effect” on abortions.
Proponents countered that Louisiana should not wait until there is evidence that sex selection is occurring here.
“It’s a modest and reasonable proposal,” said Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum. Mills said it is hard to tell if the practice is happening in Louisiana because of gender of the aborted fetus is not reported. Mills said six separate studies have shown that baby girls have been aborted in the U.S. solely because they are baby girls.
Committee Chairman Morrell, D-New Orleans, suggested that the legislation may be premature. He proposed a resolution aimed at collecting data to determine if sex selection is happening.
As the bill came up, Whitney tried unsuccessfully to amend the legislation to align some of the penalty provision in the national “model” legislation to comport with Louisiana law. Morrell suggested that Whitney was “venue shopping” to change the measure so it could be referred to another committee. Whitney said she was trying to clean up problems noted on the House floor.
Eight states have such laws, with Illinois’ dating to 1975. Other states include Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Dakota, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Voting AGAINST advancing the measure were Morrell and Peterson.
Voting FOR were Sens. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, and Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.
Not present were Sens. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur; Gary Smith, D-Norco; and Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport.