Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on March 30 signed an abortion bill into law banning abortions in that state based on the race and gender of the baby.
According to The Tucson Sentinel, Republican lawmakers in the state are convinced that race or gender-based abortions are happening in the state and point to the abortion rates among minorities. Some believe the law should have been enacted much sooner.
HB 2443, sponsored by state Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro, allows a baby’s father, or maternal grandparents if the mother is a minor, to take action against an abortion doctor who conducts such a procedure. Under the law, the doctor could be charged with a felony and face up to seven years in prison and the possible loss of their medical license.
“Women are at risk here,” Arizona Republican Sen. Nancy Barto told the Sentinel. “Unborn children are at risk for no fault of their own, for being a minority of a certain type, for being of a certain culture, for being male or female, and they deserve protection.”
Sex-selection abortions are more widely known in some Asian cultures, such as China, where a strict one child per family rule has resulted in male children being favored over females.
The law, while clear about the role of gender-based decisions, is in contrast not as clear about race-based decision making, leaving undefined, for instance, what race is and how it is determined in a fetus in-utero.
Critics said there was no solid proof that race-based abortions, in which a pregnancy is terminated due to the baby being of an unwanted mixed race, are even occurring.
David Michael Cantor, a Phoenix-based criminal lawyer, told ABC News that the idea was a “fantasy” and did not believe mothers who knew they had conceived a mixed-race baby were having abortions for that reason. He pointed out that the state has a large number of mixed-race children. “Arizona is just a melting pot,” Cantor said.
Opponents of the law said the government should not intrude on the decision mothers make about their futures.
“I’ve got to stand against this big government intrusion and meddling in people’s personal lives, that’s all this is,” Democratic Rep. Daniel Patterson said on the state House floor, according to Reuters.
Officials with Planned Parenthood said the law was another way to legally drive a wedge into women’s’ right to choose.
“It’s to stigmatize women choosing abortion and to create more fear and uncertainty for the medical professionals providing the care,” Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, told ABC News.