Battle Still Brewing Over Arizona's Sex- and Race-Based Abortion Ban

It can be difficult to keep up with all the lawsuits surrounding Arizona's litany of recent laws imposing restrictions on abortions.

In one of those lawsuits, filed over Arizona's 2011 law banning sex- and gender-based abortions, the plaintiffs are appealing the dismissal of their challenge to the law.

The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) and the NAACP of Maricopa County have claimed that the law was passed based on negative racial stereotypes, which singled out black, Asian, and Pacific Islander women.

See also:
-ACLU Tries to Block 2011 Law It Says Targets Minority Women Seeking Abortions
-Lobbyist Cathi Herrod Gets Special Access at the Capitol

Those groups are being represented by the ACLU. Their lawsuit was dismissed in federal court, but not due to the merits of the case. The court dismissed the lawsuit due to not having a legal injury.

The groups disagree with that. The appeal of this ruling points to quotes from debates of this bill at the Legislature.

The bill was passed without an ounce of proof that any sex- or race-based abortions were taking place in Arizona.

Instead, the supposed evidence provided for race-based abortions was that there's a higher rate of abortions among black women.

"The legislators did not consider any of the myriad other economic or societal reasons that explain the rate without resorting to racial typecasting," the appeal says.

Thus, the arguments that black women don't want black children was bizarre, if not plain discriminatory.

"In a twist on the notion that black women want to eliminate the black community, supporters of the ban on race-selection abortion also claimed that black women are vulnerable to medical providers purportedly plotting to eliminate the Black race through abortion," the appeal states. "That is, the act's supporters maintained that black women are being duped and thus require government protection. The legislative history contains not a shred of evidence explaining why black women -- but not women of any other race -- are incapable of deciding whether to end a pregnancy in a way that is intelligent, thoughtful, and worthy of the Legislature's respect."

On the other side, in relation to the sex-based abortion, there was a similar lack of evidence that anything like that has taken place in Arizona. However, lawmakers in support of the bill argued that such a thing happens in certain Asian countries.

"At no point during the debates did the legislators consider evidence of women of any other races allegedly seeking sex-selection abortions: The Legislature instead singled out only API women," the appeal states.

The plaintiffs say this certainly represents an injury -- "stigmatic injuries." The brief argues that the Supreme Court has recognized that laws have caused "cognizable, stigmatic harm on the targets of state-endorsed discrimination."

"When the government passes a law reducing its citizens to ugly racial stereotypes, it inflicts on them one of the most serious constitutional injuries recognized in our legal system," ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas says in a statement. "We are hopeful the Ninth Circuit will reverse the lower court's decision and allow NAACP and NAPAWF to have their day in court."

We'll give you one guess as to which organization "champion[ed] the legislation": The Center for Arizona Policy.

Four of the 20 abortion laws "championed" by the Center for Arizona Policy have been overturned in court. In one case, only one section of the law was overturned, and another lawsuit has since been filed in an attempt to overturn another part of it. Also, the Arizona House of Representatives has passed a bill this year that's very similar to one of the overturned abortion bills, and critics have warned that it too will draw a lawsuit.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley