The Senate has passed a measure that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion sought based on the sex or race of the fetus, despite ongoing debate over whether such a thing is occurring in Arizona.
The House already has passed House Bill 2443, but because it was amended on the Senate floor to toughen the penalties against the doctor, it must go back to the House for a final vote before heading to Gov. Jan Brewer for consideration.
If it becomes law, Arizona would become the first state in the nation to make sex- or race-selection abortions a crime.
What now? Basically, HB 2443 is rooted in the brand-new varietal of anti-Planned Parenthood paranoia, in which the organization stands accused of culpability in a massive scheme to commit in-utero genocide of black children. As in other recent cases of abortion law fearmongering -- such as the South Dakota law that imagined an epidemic of women being assaulted for the purpose of causing an abortion (and the presumed absence of laws that already made such assaults illegal in the first place) -- supporters of this bill cannot actually point to such an epidemic that's actually happening. But they try their best, all the same!
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said there is no evidence of gender-based abortion in this country. She said the problem is confined to countries like China where parents generally are limited to a single child, and India where parents worry about the cost of a dowry to marry off a girl.
But Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, cited a study based on 2000 census figures from U.S. families of Asian ancestry. It found that when a family already had two girls, the chances of the third child being male was 50 percent higher.
That, Barto said, shows evidence that parents are using abortion for gender selection.
It, of course, does not "show evidence" of this. Here's Mother Jones' Titania Kumeh:
In one 2008 study, researchers at Columbia University using 2000 US Census data found that second and third births in Chinese, Korean and Indian families living in the US were skewed toward boys. If the first child was a girl, the researchers reported, the second child was more likely to be a boy. If the couple had two girls, the third child was even more likely to be a boy. In white families, the researchers found only a small variance from the expected gender ratios.
The Columbia study stops short of attributing these variations to abortion. Couples doing IVF, for instance, can select the sex of an embryo prior to implanting it. In any case, the number of Asian girls born in the US is on the rise, and Asian American women make up a relatively small proportion (less than 9 percent) of women having abortions in the US. What's more, the Arizona Capitol Times points out that 92 percent of abortions in Arizona occurred before 13 weeks of pregnancy, whereas women can't generally learn the gender of a fetus until week 17.
As for the whole race-extermination side of the argument, it boils down to lawmakers taking extremist anti-abortion cant at face value.
Sinema said the argument of race-based abortion makes no sense, as a woman knows at least 50 percent of the baby's background, if not 100 percent. But Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, said the issue is money.
She read a release from Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union which said Planned Parenthood is willing to accept "racist donations, even to the point of being excited at possibility of taking money specifically to kill a black baby.'' That release also said Planned Parenthood puts its facilities "strategically in minority and urban neighborhood."
Back to Kumeh:
In fact, 63 percent of abortion clinics in America are located in predominantly white neighborhoods, according to a January report by the Guttmacher Institute (PDF). Fewer than 1 in 10 abortion clinics are located in predominately African American neighborhoods (the same neighborhoods anti-choicers claim are being "targeted"). About as many percent are located in predominately Latino neighborhoods, and 1 percent are in neighborhoods where most of the residents are deemed "non-Hispanic others."
None of this sufficiently demonstrates that there is some sort of widespread problem of women seeking to legally terminate their pregnancy based on the race or gender of their child, but as abhorrent as that notion may seem, it's bizarre that the actual seekers of such abortions aren't the ones being targeted.
HB 2443 does more than make criminals out of doctors who terminate a pregnancy knowing the woman's reason is to select the race or gender of the child. It also imposes criminal penalties on anyone who solicits or accepts funds to finance abortions based on race or sex.
Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Tucson) says the bill is "one of the most offensive, odious pieces of legislation I've ever seen."
"It's sexist, it's racist, it's paternalistic, it's disrespectful of women's decision making and moral agency," Lopez continued. And she chided the Republicans for pushing this legislation in the name of preventing discrimination while they have cut funds for health care and ignored "institutionalized poverty."
Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), who supports the bill, counters by saying that "he doesn't understand why women wouldn't support a measure that protects them." Which is what most people who believe women are chattel would say.
Senate passes bill to deter some abortions [The Arizona Republic]
Arizona lawmakers give abortion restrictions sharper teeth [East Valley Tribune]
Black Children Are Not Hawaiian Monk Seals! [Mother Jones]