Tags: arizona | abortion | ban | race | gender

Rights Group Sues Arizona Over Ban on Abortions Based on Race, Gender

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 10:50 PM

U.S. civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging Arizona's first-in-the-nation law outlawing abortions performed on the basis of the race or gender of a fetus, saying it infringes on women's constitutional rights to end their pregnancies as they choose.

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court in Phoenix seeks to permanently block the 2-year-old law that opponents say violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Arizona law makes it a felony for doctors and other medical professionals to perform abortions for the purpose of helping parents select their offspring based on gender, or to end pregnancies based on race. Women having such abortions are not penalized.

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It requires doctors providing abortion to certify that the reason for an individual procedure has nothing to do with the race or gender of the fetus, according to the lawsuit.

The legislation, which came amid a nationwide move by anti-abortion groups to impose further restrictions on the procedure, was pushed by conservative Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Republican Governor Jan Brewer in March 2011.

"This law takes the personal and private healthcare decisions of women of color and exploits them for political gain," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and lead counsel in the lawsuit. "But our Constitution flatly prohibits states from passing laws based on racist stereotypes."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Maricopa County, Arizona, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Asian Pacific American Woman's Forum. It seeks no damages.


The ACLU said in a statement that the law singles out black and Asian women based on harmful racial stereotypes, including that black women were either "motivated by a discriminatory intent to prevent the birth of black children, or were being duped into having abortions as part of a racist plot."

The group said that backers of the measure had also cited reports of sex-selected abortions in some parts of Asia to justify the law, even as numbers showed there was no statistical difference in birth rates by gender for Asian women in Arizona.

"Every woman, regardless of her race, should be able to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether that decision is to continue the pregnancy and parent, place the child for adoption, or terminate the pregnancy," said the Rev. Oscar Tillman, the NAACP's top official in Maricopa County, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

"We trust black women to make important healthcare decisions for themselves and their families and vigorously object to the idea that they do not do so thoughtfully, or that they do so out of animus to their own communities."

A spokesman for Brewer said he had not seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

State Representative Steve Montenegro, a Republican who sponsored the measure, said the legislation was needed to put an end to sex- and race-related discrimination in Arizona and throughout the nation.

"Not one baby should be discriminated against by being subjected to an abortion because they belong to a certain race or are going to be born of a certain gender," he told Reuters. "This is about human decency. This has nothing to do with abortion."

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