Sex discrimination in abortions would be banned in Louisiana under legislation that sailed out of a House committee Wednesday.

The sex-selection bans are being pushed by anti-abortion interests at both the national and state level. Louisiana is the latest where the subject has been tackled.

Bill sponsor Rep. Lenar Whitney said the legislation is aimed at stopping sex-selection abortions “because the baby is a girl instead of a boy.”

More than 160 million girls are “missing” from society, primarily in Asian nations, because of boys being the favored sex, said Whitney, R-Houma. She claimed a New York Times article indicates the practice is happening more and more in the U.S.

“We must be willing to act today to make sure baby girls aren’t aborted in Louisiana just because they are baby girls,” she said.

The House Health and Welfare Committee, without objection, approved House Bill 701 and shipped it to the House floor for further debate.

Seven states — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — ban abortion in cases of sex selection at some point in pregnancy.

Louisiana is prime territory to join their ranks, rated the most anti-abortion state in the U.S. for the last six years.

National abortion-rights groups have said the bans are inappropriate, ineffective and put an undue burden on physicians who have to question the woman’s reasons for seeking an abortion.

“The bans distract from the real issue and fail to combat the underlying societal attitudes that devalue girls and underlying cultural pressures that cause individuals and couples to pursue sex-selective abortions,” according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

HB701 would ban the abortion if the physician knows the decision is based on sex. It includes the potential for a civil lawsuit against the physician who performs the abortion in violation of the ban. The physician would be exposed to treble damages and punitive damages of $10,000. In addition, the offender would be exposed to fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 or more for third and succeeding violations.

The committee amended the measure to require physicians to provide information about the sex of the fetus, if it can be determined, prior to an abortion being performed.

“It assures that every unborn child’s sex ... can be known to the mother” so they can be “as informed as possible,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life.

No one spoke against the legislation. However, “red” cards noting opposition were filed from representatives of a variety of groups, including Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the National Association of Social Workers, Louisiana NOW and the New Orleans Abortion Fund.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.