By Ed O’Keefe/The Washington Post

A measure to ban abortions based on the sex of a child failed Thursday after proponents were unable to earn enough support in the House, but GOP abortion opponents said they achieved their strategic goal of forcing Democrats to vote against it. The plan all along, they said, was to use the vote to paint Democrats as disingenuous in their support for women’s rights by arguing that they voted against a bill intended to protect unborn baby girls.

Lawmakers voted 246 to 168 on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would punish doctors with up to five years in prison for performing abortions because the parents seek a child of the other sex. Despite the vote margin, the bill failed because it was considered under rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage. Twenty Democratic lawmakers voted for the bill; seven Republicans voted against it. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), said his legislation would help fight “a war on unborn little girls,” noting that about 200 million abortions around the world can be tied to the practice of “sex-selection abortions,” which are more common in Asian and Eastern European countries than in the United States.

The White House said President Obama opposed the measure because it intrudes on a woman’s right to privacy and would be hazardous for doctors who perform abortions.  Franks called Obama “the abortion president” Thursday. “There has never been a more pro-abortion leader in the White House in the history of the United States,” he said.

Opponents of the measure criticized Republicans for bringing it up under “suspension rules” and said the measure was another attempt to restrict abortions and force women to justify their reasons for wanting the procedure.

“This is part of an agenda that is clearly not in touch with where the country thinks the House should be focused,” said Ted Miller, communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “It’s completely out of touch with the country’s values and priorities.”

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