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Bill to ban abortions based on race, gender headed to Brewer
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Bill to ban abortions based on race, gender headed to Brewer

  • Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, shown in a file photo, argued that doctors in Arizona are performing abortions based on race and gender. Opponents disputed that claim.
    Lauren Gilger/Cronkite News ServiceRep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, shown in a file photo, argued that doctors in Arizona are performing abortions based on race and gender. Opponents disputed that claim.

A bill that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion based on the fetus' race or sex is headed to Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.

The state House on Wednesday approved a Senate-amended version of HB 2443, authored by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, which would make anyone who knowingly performs, coerces, or accepts or solicits money to pay for a sex- or race-selection abortion guilty of a Class 3 felony.

The bill would require a doctor to sign an affidavit stating that the reason for the abortion isn't the fetus' race or sex. It would allow the father, if married to the woman who gets an abortion, to sue a doctor he believes performed an abortion based on race or sex. If the mother isn't 18, her parents would be able to sue.

The measure passed 35-20, mostly along party lines. Republicans Cecil Ash of Mesa, Russ Jones of Yuma and Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix dissented and Democrats Albert Hale of Window Rock and Catherine Miranda of Phoenix voted in favor.

Montenegro argued that race- and sex-selection abortions are a violation of human rights and claimed that abortion rates among minorities suggest such abortions are happening in Arizona. He said last month that he introduced the bill to "take a stand against bigotry and prejudice."

Montenegro's office said he was unavailable for interviews Wednesday afternoon, but the lawmaker posted on Twitter: "A historic day! My HB2443 (Prohibits Sex & Race based abortion) Passed final vote in the House 2day. First in the nation! Now to the Gov."

Opponents called the bill offensive to women, saying there's no evidence such abortions are occurring and that abortion rates among minorities align with the population.

"We can't assume that an African-American woman or a Hispanic woman that gets an abortion is doing it because doesn't want to give birth to a child of that ethnicity, or of a certain sex," said Anjali Abraham, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

Abraham said the ACLU is concerned that the measure could have a chilling effect on women wanting to discuss abortions with their doctors.

"Doctors face stiff penalties in this bill," she said. "I can only imagine they're going to start asking a lot of pointed questions to make sure they don't find themselves liable for something (abortion) that's ultimately constitutionally protected."

Michelle Steinberg, an Arizona policy manager for Planned Parenthood, said the bill is based on faulty evidence and statistics, adding that it could intimidate women and abortion providers.

"You're painting them as either evil women intent on having an abortion or you're a woman trying to manufacture black genocide," she said.

Several Republicans this week spoke in support of the bill on the Senate floor, including reading letters from U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and the National Black Pro-Life Union.

"This legislation really is needed. Sex-selection abortions are happening in this country, and it's time that we address it head on," said Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.

Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, questioned why senators who support women's rights are so opposed to a bill that he said protects those rights.

After a House Health and Human Services Committee amendment last month removed criminal penalties for doctors from the bill, a floor amendment by Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, this week added them back in.

Ash, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, supported the bill in committee and its first House floor vote but reversed his vote Wednesday because of Antenori's amendment.

"I just feel like it puts too much of a burden on the doctor and, you know, I don't think any doctor is going to perform an abortion for race-selection or gender-selection," he said in an interview. "Doctors worked too hard to get where they are … and to have that possibly jeopardized by a frivolous claim by someone who may have ulterior motives was too hard to swallow."

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, called the measure sexist, racist, paternalistic and disrespectful of the ability of women to make decisions.

"This is one of the most offensive, odious pieces of legislation I've ever seen," she said.

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