Arizona bill to criminalize abortion if based on gender or race goes to governor

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A bill criminalizing sex- and race-based abortion might soon make its way to the desk of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, as the Arizona Senate approved the bill 21-5 Monday, following the House’s 40-18 vote back in February.

If Brewer signs it, Arizona will become the first state that makes a woman explain her reasoning for getting an abortion.

Since it was first introduced by Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro in January, the bill has gone through three different drafts.

As introduced, the law made the following crimes punishable as class 3 felonies:

Performing an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex or race of the child or the race of a parent of that child

Using force or the threat of force to injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex- or race-selection abortion

Soliciting or accepting money to finance a sex- or race-selection abortion

This last provision is aimed at Planned Parenthood, which has been painted by anti-abortion rights groups as “a black genocide” machine, after Live Action conducted a sting operation on Planned Parenthood requesting their donations go directly to abortions for African-Americans.

The House bill that was passed in February eliminated the felony 3 clause; however, the Senate bill, the current version, reinstated the felony 3 provision.

Those facing potential jail time include doctors who terminate a pregnancy knowing the woman’s reason for the abortion is based on the race or gender of the fetus. The bill also imposes criminal penalties on anyone who solicits or accepts funds to finance abortions based on race or sex.

Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support for the measure, there was still ample argument on the Senate floor as reported by the East Valley Tribune Monday, with the opposition demanding to know if “girls and blacks” are being targeted in the womb, though no language in any versions of the bill specify a gender or race.

The bill’s “purpose” in the current version states:

Evidence shows that minorities are targeted for abortion and that sex‑selection abortion is also occurring in our country. There is no place for such discrimination and inequality in human society. Sex-selection and race-selection abortions are elective procedures that do not in any way implicate a woman’s health. The purpose of this legislation is to protect unborn children from prenatal discrimination in the form of being subjected to abortion based on the child’s sex or race by prohibiting sex-selection or race-selection abortions.

When pressed for evidence of race- and gender-based abortions, Montenegro has quoted statistics obtained from Christian public policy group the Frederick Douglass Foundation, which has published a figure claiming 30 percent of abortion recipients in Arizona are African-American, though African-Americans only make up about 4 percent of the population.

The East Valley Tribune reported that Arizona Department of Health Services figures from 1999 show 7.3 percent of all abortions were to black women. TAI finds statistics from the ADHS that show that in 2007, 6.4 percent of abortions in the state went to African-American residents.

Timothy Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, tells The American Independent that the flawed statistic — 30 percent of abortion recipients in Arizona are African-American — was an error from a staff member of the National Black Pro Life Coalition, who accidentally lumped statistics from other states into the number that made it to Montenegro’s desk. Johnson said his organization is working on issuing a correction, though none has been released yet.

But, Johnson, a University of Arizona graduate, said he is happy to see Arizona taking proactive steps against race- and sex-selective abortions.

“It’s bad enough abortions are legal,” Johnson said, “but at least now there are constraints against choosing abortion based on the sex or race of the child.”

Johnson said he knows such abortions occur, because he’s been around the world (when he served in the military) and he’s seen documentaries detailing such instances, which he referred to as an “unseen, unheard, invisible” problem. He said Arizona is the first state to make this problem — and its solution — seen, heard and visible.

Ever since Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) authored the national version of the bill in 2009, the Frederick Douglass Foundation has been supporting the bill in various state legislatures. At an FDF-sponsored leadership conference held March 17-19 in Washington, D.C., Franks asked attendees to shop the legislation to their states but to make sure it comes from the hands of “someone credible.”

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