Arizona House passes bill prohibiting abortion if based on sex or race of fetus

The Arizona House of Representatives passed legislation Monday that has many scratching their heads: prohibiting abortions on the basis of the fetus’ presumed race or gender.

If the bill passes the Senate, all abortion providers in the state could be sued if they knowingly perform abortions requested because of the unborn baby’s presumed gender or race. Abortion providers would now be compelled to sign an affidavit swearing they have no knowledge that the child is being aborted because of its sex or race.

The bill, authored by Rep. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park), was pegged by sponsors as a move to help end discrimination against unborn children, essentially implying that such discrimination is happening in the state, though opponents and supporters argued over the validity of that idea during Monday’s House debate. Regardless, it passed overwhelmingly, 41 to 18.

The legislation implicates the abortion provider and the woman: “A person cannot perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on sex or race of the child or the race of one of the parents,” reads the bill.

Other rules:

A person shall not knowingly or intentionally:

* Use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selected abortion.
* Solicit or accept monies to finance a sex selection or race selection abortion.

The bill also grants the right to the father or grandparents of the unborn child to sue the mother if it is proven she had an abortion because of gender- or race-based reasons. Potential violators of this law also include: physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, counselors or other medical or mental health professionals who do not report violations of this law; they could be fined up to $10,000.

But oddly, there’s no language that specifically implicates a father, who could potentially be involved in the decision, or the pregnant woman’s parents.

The title of the legislation is the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011, which, according to the Cronkite News Service, stems from a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009 by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that never made it out of committee. According to the news service, last year Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a Montenegro-sponsored bill increasing the amount of information hospitals and clinics must report about women who get abortions, along with a bill mandating a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. Illinois and Pennsylvania have laws prohibiting sex-selection abortions, and Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Idaho and Oklahoma have tried to enact similar legislation.

Another proposed anti-choice bill that’s scaring abortion-rights supporters across the state did not pass during Monday’s session but was instead delayed by the House Committee of the Whole. This abortion bill, House Bill 2416, repeals and revises several of Arizona’s current abortion laws, including a new ban on medication abortions and a mandate that abortion providers must conduct an ultrasound to give the woman an opportunity to see an image of her unborn fetus and listen to a heartbeat if one is present.

The conservative nonprofit Center for Arizona Policy has strongly endorsed the bill, stating: “Arizona has an important interest in protecting the health and safety of women and ensuring that women receive full and accurate information when considering abortion.” The group claims to have helped 84 bills turn into law.

On its website: “Our work has strengthened marriage, promoted the sanctity of life by limiting abortion and stopping attempts to bring physician-assisted suicide to our state, protected our community from gambling and pornography, allowed Bible clubs to be formed in middle schools, and expanded educational choice.

Michelle Steinberg, a policy manager for Planned Parenthood Arizona, told The American Independent that it is against Planned Parenthood procedure to ask a woman her reason for having an abortion, and, as far as she’s aware, women usually don’t divulge that information.

“We’re there to provide a legal medical procedure,” Steinberg said. “[The Arizona lawmakers] are creating this impression that women are deciding to end their pregnancies on the basis of race and gender, and it’s just not true. … This is one more way to deny access to reproductive health care.”

She said she is confident the legislation will pass into law and that it could potentially dissuade physicians from offering abortion services if they fear legal consequences or having their medical licenses revoked.

Steinberg noted that in the six years she’s worked for Planned Parenthood, Arizona lawmakers have enforced more and more regulations, particularly after former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s term. She said the decisions have become increasingly ideological and less and less based on logic and scientific reasoning.

“They’ll regulate [abortion] out of existence. They can’t outright ban it, so they’ll chip away at it until it’s impossible to get one.”

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