By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an effort to revive a lawsuit challenging an Arizona state law banning abortions based on the race or sex of the child. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and the NAACP’s Maricopa County branch sought to oppose the law which is supposed to “protect unborn children from prenatal discrimination in the form of being subjected to abortion based on the child’s sex or race.” The law is premised on the belief that African American and Asian Pacific Islander women are more likely to seek an abortion based on the known sex of the child.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the civil rights groups. Arizona is the only state that bans race-based abortions, although other states bar abortions because of sex.
The law is based in part on studies submitted by lawmakers making the claim that China and India are “pervasive” in female infanticide. When seeking to pass this law, Arizona legislators argued the fact “that people from those countries [China and India] and from those cultures are moving and immigrating in some reasonable numbers to the United States and to Arizona.” Lawmakers also cited the migration patterns of Asian American women to Arizona to determine the necessity of such a law. The Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 makes it a class 3 felony for any person who “performs an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex or race of the child or the race of a parent of that child, uses force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion, solicit or accepts monies to finance a sex-selection or race-selection abortion.”
“This law is based on ugly racial stereotypes about black and Asian women,” states Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney for the ACLU. Kolbi-Molinas claims that the entire purpose of the law is to have doctors racially profile their patients based on the state lawmakers’ beliefs. “Arizona’s law is racist and paternalistic. It’s a ruse that presents a false choice between gender equality and the right to abortion,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
The ACLU brief opposing the law states that no legislator discussed the abortion rates of women of other races, or practices in other countries other than China and India. The law “was motivated entirely by the legislators’ negative racial stereotypes about the reasons Black and API women may decide to end a pregnancy.”
More court documents point to the racial undertones and motivation for the law. The Act’s primary sponsor, Representative Steve Montenegro, explained that the ban was necessary “because minority babies are several times more likely to be aborted than white babies,” and that “some abortions are performed because a mother does not want a … minority baby.” In addition, the ACLU argued that neither the law, its sponsors nor supporters identified a single example of a race- or sex-selection abortion in Arizona.
The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling stating that the civil rights group lacked required standing to file a lawsuit, as neither the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum or the NAACP could show any individual member was harmed by the law. According to Yeung, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum “remain deeply insulted by the law that triggered our lawsuit.”
In addition to the ACLU, NAACP and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, numerous civil rights groups, social scientists and constitutional scholars have opposed Arizona’s law. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.