The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on July 14 seeking an injunction against an Arizona law that prohibits sex and race-selective abortions, claiming the law intended to protect women is a form of racial discrimination.
Arizona’s “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011” bans abortionists from providing sex-selective abortions. Violators could face up to 3 1/2 years in prison and lose their medical licenses. Concealment of violations carries a $10,000 fine. The ACLU, representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Asian-Pacific American Women’s Forum, attempted to block the law last year. District Judge David Campbell dismissed the case, ruling the parties didn’t prove damages significant enough to merit striking down the law. This year, the ACLU filed suit in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco—the same court that overturned Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban last year.
The ACLU argues that the law relies on racial stereotypes—particularly against Asian and African American minorities. Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney, said the law assigns “alleged character flaws.” But the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Steve Montenegro, asserts that the bill attempts to prohibit discrimination, not perpetuate it. “We are trying to stop the heinous discrimination that ends with the murder of a baby inside the womb because she is going to be born the wrong gender or the wrong race,” he told Life Site News.
Arizona is one of eight states to pass sex-selective abortion bans since 2009. South Dakota became the latest in March. “We have to realize these statutes apply to everyone, and they’re there to help those women,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI).
Many abortion advocates oppose sex-selective abortion bans as surreptitious attempts to pass more laws limiting abortion access, despite recognizing that sex-selective abortion does occur on a small scale in the United States. In a 2012 press release, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute acknowledged “limited data indicating that sex-selective abortion may be occurring in some Asian communities, although the U.S. sex ratio, at 1.05 males for every female, is squarely within biologically normal parameters.”
Unless explicitly stated, a woman’s reason for seeking an abortion is unidentifiable. But organizations like CLI use population data as evidence for sex-selective abortions in America. CLI agrees that the most recent national census data reveals an acceptable sex ratio nationwide. But Chinese-American, Korean-American, Indian-American, and Filipino-American demographics reveal ratios that suggest gender discrimination. A 2008 study of 2000 census data conducted by Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund of Columbia University further confirms the presence of sex-selective abortion, especially for third children.
But advocates for sex-selective abortion bans also cite anecdotal evidence. California Assemblywoman Shannon Grove sponsored a sex-selective abortion ban bill earlier this year. She attempted to present to the Assembly a video documenting a young woman’s journey from India, where the practice is illegal, to California where she wanted to abort her female baby. The Assembly denied Grove’s request, and her bill died in committee, Breitbart reported.
A June 2012 Live Action investigation also revealed two Arizona abortion facilities allowed sex-selective abortions.“Don’t tell us that, because we don’t want to know,” one counselor told an undercover operative who said she wanted an abortion because of the baby’s sex. A surgical assistant promised to “forget” the sex-selective abortion. “But just be sure not to mention it [to the abortionist],” she said. “Don’t even mention it to him.”
Donovan agrees gender discriminatory abortions in the United States are not a rampant issue, but the bans “align with international norms and get ahead of the problem,” he said. Britain, which has a large Indian population, currently bans sex-selective abortions. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reaffirmed the ban in May following an investigation conducted by The Daily Telegraph that revealed abortionists knowingly provided sex-selective abortions.
In America, the bans are designed to empower women who may be facing social or family pressure to abort a female baby, Donovan said. But Guttmacher labels them “neither enforceable nor effective.” South Korea reduced sex-selective abortions only after improving the social, legal, and economic status of women, the pro-abortion organization said.
But South Korea also passed legislation that prohibits sex-selective abortion, Donovan noted. “CLI does agree that other methods of protecting and encouraging appreciation for the equal value of women need to be pursued in culture and society,” he told me in an email. But the bans comprise “a valid part of an overall approach to vitiating and ultimately eliminating son preference and the abortions to which it gives rise,” he said.
Though sex-selective abortion in the United States is not a monumental problem,“if it happens one time...that’s one time too many,” Donavan said.