Arizona abortion bill requires race, gender selection be ruled out

2011-01-27T00:00:00Z Arizona abortion bill requires race, gender selection be ruled outHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
January 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Women who want to terminate a pregnancy would have to verify they're not doing it because they want a child of a different sex or race, under the terms of proposed new legislation.

HB 2443, crafted by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would require a woman to sign an affidavit she is not seeking an abortion because of the child's sex or race. Montenegro has a separate measure, HB 2442, dealing only with abortions based on sex selection.

Any doctor who performed an abortion knowing race or sex selection was the reason would face felony charges. And the legislation would permit the father of the unborn child, if married to the woman having the abortion, to sue the doctor for damages.

Neither Montenegro nor independent searches of state records and the Internet provided any information indicating a significant number of women are seeking abortions for those reasons.

Montenegro promised supporting data when interviewed initially last week, but as of late Wednesday had provided none. He said he will have more specifics to back those claims today.

The Arizona Department of Health Services does not collect information on the gender of the fetus. And it is only recently it started to ask doctors whether a patient is Hispanic.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, was outraged by Montenegro's proposal.

"It's deeply offensive to suggest that women and couples are making decisions from a racial or gender bias," he said. "It just reflects a really warped perspective on the part of the proponents."

But Montenegro said he has information "that there are targeted communities that the abortion industry targets." He said for the purposes of his ban, an abortion based on race would include situations where the parents are the same race as the fetus.

As proof of targeting, Montenegro said there is a higher rate of abortion among minorities. And he said more females are aborted than males which suggests some women may be using abortion for gender selection.

A separate measure sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix and 34 other Republicans from both the House and Senate would require doctors to perform ultrasound on the patient and offer to provide both an explanation of what it shows and a physical picture of the fetus. HB 2416 also would bar abortions unless the woman was given the chance to "hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible."

Yee, who said she opposes abortion, believes some women do not have a full understanding of what they are doing.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Roe v. Wade ruling, said women have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy, at least in the first trimester. And while courts have made some modifications, that decision still stands.

Montenegro, who said he disagrees with Roe v. Wade, went on that he doesn't believe the ruling forecloses his proposal, which is intended to protect the life of an unborn person "if it's being discriminated against based on their sex or race."

Constitutional questions aside, Howard said there are practical problems to the proposal.

"This legislation would require women and couples to present a case for their health care and then put physicians in the subjective position of deciding whether their reasons are valid enough," he said. "This is really ... politicians putting physicians in a new role that physicians I know don't want."

Yee said her legislation is simply an extension of existing laws to provide a "reflection period" for women to consider what they are doing.

In 2009 the Legislature approved a 24-hour waiting period between an initial consultation to explain the procedure and the actual abortion, forcing a woman to make two separate trips to the clinic.

A judge ruled that two-trip requirement is unduly burdensome. But he said the waiting period is legal if the initial consultation can be done by phone.

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