The American Civil Liberties Union was in federal court Wednesday to challenge an Arizona law that bans so-called "race and sex selection" abortions. The civil rights organization says the statute intentionally targets and "stigmatizes" women of color, because there is the assumption that they want an abortion based on these reasons.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit
on behalf of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
and the NAACP of Maricopa County. The group argues the law, which came into effect in 2011, "exploits racial stereotypes to discriminate against black and Asian American women seeking abortion by requiring doctors—under the threat of criminal penalty (the law makes it a felony to perform an abortion if the doctor knows it is based on the fetus' race or sex, according to the Arizona Republic)
—to racially profile their patients."
From an ACLU press release:
During debate over the law, Arizona lawmakers claimed that there was a racist plot to prevent the birth of Black children. These lawmakers also claimed the law was needed to prevent Asian-American and Pacific Islander women in Arizona from having sex-selection abortions, even though Arizona’s own data showed no sex disparities among children born to AAPI women in Arizona as compared to women of other races.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals now has to decide whether this suit has legal standing to challenge this law, based on alleged violations of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. But, back in October 2013, a federal district court threw out this lawsuit, "despite overwhelming evidence of discriminatory intent, stating that the groups did not have legal standing to challenge the law," the ACLU says in a press release.
From the Republic
A federal judge in Arizona dismissed the lawsuit in 2013, saying the groups failed to prove minorities had been unequally denied abortions under the law. Being stigmatized, the judge wrote, is not enough to grant a group or individual legal standing in such a lawsuit. The ruling did not address the constitutionality of the underlying law.
The plaintiffs appealed to the 9th U.S. circuit, and were granted a hearing.
The Scottsdale-based Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom is defending the law on behalf of the state and bill sponsor Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park. Alliance Defending Freedom did not return calls seeking comment.
Montenegro in the past has said the intent of the law was to protect minority fetuses. “No one should be discriminated against by being subjected to an abortion because they are going to be born the ‘wrong’ gender or the ‘wrong’ race,” he said.
During legislative hearings on the law, Republicans said that statistics show a high percentage of abortions are being sought by minority women and that abortion clinics intentionally locate in minority areas. They said statistics indicate that some populations are increasingly seeking abortions based on the fetus’ sex.