The House of Representatives failed to pass the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA). The bill originally would have banned abortions based on the race or gender of the child. PRENDA should have easily passed through the Republican-led House, but it was derailed by partisan politics and the debate du jour over the "war on women."

PRENDA was on track for certain (albeit partisan) passage by the House. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) sponsored PRENDA to make it illegal for women to have an abortion because of either the race or sex of the child. The bill had 98 cosponsors. But just as the Judiciary Committee was finalizing the bill, Democrats began accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women." Debates over contraception, state legislative fights over ultrasound bills, and Rush Limbaugh's ad hominem attack on Sandra Fluke gave resonance to Democratic charges at the same time that PRENDA was approved by the Judiciary Committee and reported to the House.

Last week, the Republican leadership announced that PRENDA would come up for a vote. But there was an important catch. The bill would no longer include a ban on race-based abortion, and it would be considered under a suspension of the rules. Suspension is a procedure designed for noncontroversial legislation: Time for debate is limited, and a two-thirds majority is required for passage. According to Republican rules, PRENDA did not qualify for suspension because more than one-third of the Judiciary Committee voted against the bill. But the Republican leadership used its prerogative to waive this rule and bring the bill up for a suspension vote. The leadership, however, said that PRENDA had to be amended so that it was about only sex-based abortion, not race.

Franks said on the House ...

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