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Civil Rights Groups Claim Arizona Abortion Law Discriminatory

Civil Rights Groups Claim Ariz. Abortion Law Discriminatory
An Arizona law that criminalizes abortions based on sex or gender preference is the target of a new lawsuit.

Civil rights groups are challenging an Arizona law aimed at preventing abortions based on race and gender preference, saying it is discriminatory to black and Asian women.

The 2011 law makes it a felony to knowingly perform an abortion when the procedure is sought because of the race or gender of the fetus. The law requires abortion providers to sign an affidavit attesting that to their knowledge, the abortion is not being sought on those grounds.


While the legislation was under consideration in 2011, lawmakers who supported the bill cited disproportionately high abortion rates among black women, and reports of gender selection in certain Asian countries, as the reason the legislation was needed.

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Steve Montenegro, said during legislative hearings that some abortion clinics are targeting black women as a way to reduce the black population.

Lawmakers who supported the bill also suggested that since sex-selection abortions are happening in other parts of the world, there is a possibility that such tendencies could exist among immigrants to Arizona.

Civil rights groups argue the law unfairly stigmatizes and singles out black and Asian women who seek abortions, and say it is unconstitutional.

"By assuming Asian-American women, because of our culture, will choose to terminate pregnancies based on sex, this law was intentionally formed based on offensive generalizations about our community," said Miriam Yeung, of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. "As a result, it turned Asian-American women in Arizona into suspects."


The other named plaintiff is the Maricopa County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Plaintiffs are asking the judge to find the law unconstitutional, and strike it down. 

"Laws passed with a discriminatory intent based on racial stereotypes cannot stand, period, cannot stand," said Dan Pochoda of the ACLU of Arizona, which is part of the legal team representing plaintiffs.

"It is clear from the legislative history and all the information we have that that was the basis for the decision making by the legislature and the governor in this case," Pochoda said.

No one has been prosecuted under the law to date.