The debate over selective-sex abortion bans remains a contentious issue in state legislatures across the country. On January 16, 2012, Republicans in the Colorado state senate proposed outlawing abortions that are performed based on the sex of the fetus. The proposed legislation defines sex-based abortion as one “undertaken for purposes of eliminating an unborn child of an undesired sex.” Similar legislation has been considered in the past decade on both the national and state level. Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Illinois have passed statutes banning the procedure in recent years. In May 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PreNDA) that would have imposed fines and prison terms on doctors who perform sex-selective abortions. In a statement opposing the legislation, Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado, said, “I don’t support abortion for gender selection…I don’t know anyone who does. Maybe that’s because there is no problem in this country of abortion for gender selection.”

Supporters of legislative bans on selective-sex abortions argue that there is evidence of the practice in the U.S. among certain ethnic groups from countries where there is a traditional preference for male children, most notably India and China. U.S. Congressman Christopher Smith, a co-sponsor of the PreNDA, argues that the selective-sex abortion procedure “is part of a deliberate plan of population control” and “is the real war on women.” However, critics of the PreNDA argue that conservative Republicans are targeting a non-issue and have effectually created a staw man.

The selective-sex abortion ban debate implicates some serious constitutional and policy concerns. The chief concern is that the legislation would restrict women’s access to abortion by requiring women to disclose why they are choosing abortion. Similarly, there is a concern that the legislation intrudes on a woman’s relationship with her doctor. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court held that regulations that place a substantial burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion are unconstitutional. Requiring women to disclose why they are choosing abortion and the imposition of fines and prison terms on doctors would likely be deemed an undue burden on abortion rights. Furthermore, critics assert that legislation could lead to racial profiling of Asian-American women. The constitutional and policy concerns certainly seem to weigh against the selective-sex abortion bans.