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Arizona Sued for Targeting Women of Color

Written by Floyd Alvin Galloway, Special to the NNPA from the Arizona Informant on 24 June 2013.

PHOENIX (NNPA) – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit May 29, on behalf of the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) challenging a state law that 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, sponsored by Rep. Steve Montenegro, (R-Litchfield Park) is based on stereotypes that Black and API women cannot be trusted to make personal health care decisions without scrutiny by the state.

“This law takes the personal and private health care decisions of women of color and exploits them for political gain,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and lead counsel in the lawsuit. “But our Constitution flatly prohibits states from passing laws based on racist stereotypes.”

The case alleges the law violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. “The 14th Amendment says laws passed with a discriminatory intent and racial stereotypes cannot stand, period. This law is unconstitutional,” said Dan Pochoda, an ACLU lawyer.

During the law’s passage, supporters cited higher rates of abortion among Black women as evidence that Black women either were motivated by a discriminatory intent to prevent the birth of Black children, or were being duped into having abortions as part of a racist plot. Both claims are baseless and offensive states the ACLU.

Some say it’s another attempt by the conservative group ALEC, (American Legislative Exchange Council) to thwart the freedom of people of color. The organization composed of conservative legislators, businesses and foundations which drafts ultra-conservative legislation for state legislatures.

Through the name of the law, ‘Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011,’ is a slap in the face for civil rights and women’s rights. “They tried to pass it in Georgia and it was defeated,” said Post. 

She noted an African-American women’s group in Georgia was able to rally support to defeat the race bill. “They are trying to introduce it in other states.”

Arizona, a beacon for ultra-conservative legislation that adversely affects people of color and women, is the first state to pass the race law.

“It makes no sense says Monica Ennis, a registered nurse. The past president of the Arizona Black Nurses Association, who monitors health issues for the nursing group and Maricopa County NAACP, says the law has no factual basis.

“The information Mr. Montenegro was reading from dealt with issues concerning people in China and India,” she said.

Both Post and Pochoda emphatically state the law is unconstitutional to single out a race. They also note the proponents of the law have not produced any evidence whatsoever that a Black woman has had an abortion because the baby is Black or an Asian woman has had an abortion because the baby is a girl.

“There is not a shred of evidence of this happening in Arizona,” said Post.

Post asks: Do you need a bunch of White men drafting a law stating they are “protecting Black women from themselves.”

Supporters also cited reports of sex-selection abortions in parts of Asia as reason for including that provision in the law. Even though the state’s own statistics show no difference in birth ratio of boys and girls to Asian women as compared to other women, supporters of the law repeatedly made the claim that API women could not be trusted and would engage in these practices simply by virtue of their race.

“Far from preventing bias against women and girls, this law serves only to fuel suspicion and stereotypes about Asian women, their communities, and their culture,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of NAPAWF. “The politicians behind this law do not care about gender justice here or abroad, and are instead using a racist and anti-immigrant law to demean women making serious medical decisions for themselves and their families.”

The law, which contains criminal penalties, requires every physician providing abortion care to certify that the reason the woman is seeking that care has nothing to do with the race or sex of the embryo or fetus.

The plaintiffs say a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt may take four months to a year. •

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