Racist Arizona Law Claims There's a Secret Plot to Abort Minority Babies

ByKatie Halper

That's right, ladies and gentlemen! The state that brought you the chain-gang enforcing Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, the "show me your papers" immigration law, and racial profiling is proud to present its latest hit: a law prohibiting sex and raced-based abortion, based on lies and stereotypes about black and Asian women. Well, Arizona signed the law back in 2011, but it's in the news again because the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) challenging the law.

The law prohibits abortions based on the sex or race of the fetus or embryo, and makes it a felony to knowingly perform or provide financing for an abortion sought because of the race or sex of the fetus or a parent’s race. The maximum punishment if convicted is 3.5 years in prison. The woman and doctor must also sign an affidavit stating the reason the woman wants an abortion has nothing to do with the race or sex of the embryo or fetus.

The Republicans (no surprise there) who introduced the bill claim they were motivated by the epidemic of gender and race-based abortion occurring in Arizona. The worst thing about this epidemic is that, well, it doesn't exist.

Let's start with the sex-based abortion myth. The law's defenders presented evidence of sex-based abortion outside of the United States. They offered no evidence whatsoever of the phenomenon occurring within Arizona. Rep. Steve Montenegro, who sponsored the bill, said, "There’s countries like China, countries in Asia that have a strong problem in sex selection. Our country there’s evidence that this is happening." His statement makes about as much logical sense as it does syntactical sense.

When the Arizona Senate was debating the bill, State Senator Linda Lopez said, "There is no evidence to indicate that there is any problem in Arizona. We’re trying to fix a

But the abortion limiters have an answer for this. Why put off until tomorrow what you will maybe have to do sometime in the near or distant future?

Or, as State Senator Barto explained, why does the lack of evidence of sex-based abortions occurring in Arizona, "mean that we should wait and see whether it happens before we address it? Because we know that it's something that's going on in the world. We know that it's something that is pervasive in some areas."

This is true. And it's why I think the United States should pass a law mandating the eradication of cholera here in the United States. Where it doesn't exist. Because we know that it's something that's going on in the world. We know that it's something that is pervasive in some areas.

But back to Barto's brilliant line of rhetorical questions: "We know that people from those countries and from those cultures are moving and immigrating in some reasonable numbers to the United States and to Arizona. And so with that in mind, why in good conscience would we want to wait until the problem does develop and bad things are happening and then react when we can be proactive and try to prevent the problem from happening in the first place?" In other words, RUN! The Asians are coming!

As for the race-based abortions, well, once again, proof and facts don't figure into the equation that much. Montenegro cited a Planned Parenthood study that he, sadly, couldn't find. He repeated the anti-choice lie that the majority of abortion clinics are located in neighborhoods where mostly people of color live: "More than 70% of abortion clinics are still located in minority neighborhood today." And Montenegro even made the outlandish claim that "federally funded clinics were exposed as having agreed to accept funds from persons who expressly requested that their donation be used to reduce the African American population."

Montenegro and his allies claim that a higher percentage of black women have abortions because they don't want to have black babies. It's nice that Montenegro wants to protect black women from making a bad decision based on what I can only assume would be self-loathing and internalized racism.

But they're not. They're making decisions based on getting pregnant. The abortion rates in any community correlate to the rates of unwanted pregnancies, not irrational prejudice. And if we want to reduce the number of abortions, we'd have to do things that Republicans hate like using the government to improve access to health care, education, and economic opportunity.

As the Guttmacher Institute's Susan Cohen  argues, "Antiabortion activists in minority communities who are trying to protect African American women and Latinas from themselves by restricting access to safe and legal abortion have it backward. They should instead focus their efforts on reducing the disparities in access to quality health care and in health outcomes more broadly. And if they are most concerned about the disproportionately high abortion rates, they should begin by advocating for improved access to high-quality contraceptive services to reduce the disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy in these communities."

What bothers people like Montenegro isn't the non-existent sex and race-based abortion that is not occurring in Arizona. What bother them is that abortion is occurring anywhere. Montenegro clearly equates abortion with murder: "The founding principles of the United States is the transcendent value of all innocent human life. When we criticize other nations for human rights abuses and at the same time look the other way while our own children are being killed simply because they are the wrong sex or the wrong race, we undermine the foundations of our own nation and human dignity itself."

Laws like these are passed to further an anti-choice agenda. As  Imani Gandy, Senior Legal Analyst at RH Reality Check explains, "These politicians are not concerned about gender and racial discrimination. Their goal is to strip women of reproductive choice by making it increasingly difficult for women to seek abortions, and increasingly burdensome for doctors to perform them."

These laws "have nothing to do with saving black babies from extinction and everything to do with controlling black women’s bodies. And simple sex-selection abortion ban bills are just as pernicious: They seek to control women’s bodies by feigning concern about the plight of “pre-born” girls, girls who, once they reach reproductive age, will be seen as little more than incubators for the next batch of fetuses."

So what is the real basis for this law? An ACLU press released explained that the law "relies on harmful racial stereotypes to shame and discriminate against Black women and Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women who decide to end their pregnancies. The law, HB 2443, is based on stereotypes that Black and API women cannot be trusted to make personal health care decisions without scrutiny by the state."

As ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas noted, "This law takes the personal and private health care decisions of women of color and exploits them for political gain... But our Constitution flatly prohibits states from passing laws based on racist stereotypes." In going after certain groups, namely black and Asian women, the law clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Hopefully, the Court will see that.