Advocates for Women of Color Appeal Discriminatory Arizona Abortion Ban

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
March 12, 2014 12:00 am

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Law Discriminates Against and Stigmatizes Asian Women and Other Women of Color

March 12, 2014

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PHOENIX — The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Maricopa County today appealed the dismissal of their challenge to Arizona’s discriminatory race- and sex-based abortion ban (HB 2443). The groups are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona.

Last May, the groups challenged the law because it relies on harmful racial stereotypes to stigmatize, shame, and discriminate against Black women and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women who seek abortions. The lower court did not rule on the merits, but instead dismissed the case on standing. Today’s filing in the Ninth Circuit appeals that decision.

“This law is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “This law is not about equality or women’s health. It’s about advancing an anti-abortion agenda by shaming and demeaning Black and AAPI women. The politicians behind this law do not care about improving the lives and health of women and girls. They are just exploiting women’s personal and private health care decisions to score political points.”

Race- and sex-selective abortion bans promote anti-immigrant sentiments, stigmatize, and discriminate against women of color by suggesting they can’t be trusted to make their own reproductive health care decisions. During debate on the law, its supporters claimed AAPI women would engage in sex-selective abortion simply because of their race, even though there was no evidence of sex-selective abortions in Arizona. In fact, Arizona’s own data provides no evidence of sex-selective abortions.

“When the government passes a law reducing its citizens to ugly racial stereotypes, it inflicts on them one of the most serious constitutional injuries recognized in our legal system,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are hopeful the Ninth Circuit will reverse the lower court’s decision and allow NAACP and NAPAWF to have their day in court.”

Supporters also cited higher rates of abortion among Black women as evidence that Black women were either having abortions to prevent the birth of Black children, or were being duped into having abortions as part of a racist plot. Both claims are baseless, racist, and offensive.

“Instead of racist laws that demonize women of color, we need policies that make it easier for a woman of color to raise her family in a safe and healthy environment, so she can make her own choices about her life,” said the Rev. Oscar Tillman of the Maricopa NAACP.

More than 60 similar bills have been introduced at the state and federal level since 2009. Just two days ago, the South Dakota legislature passed a similar law that uses racial stereotypes to target AAPI women. A coalition of advocates for women of color is urging the governor to veto.

“Once again, Arizona’s legislators passed a law based on clearly stated, discriminatory intent,” said Dan Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona legal director. “This opportunistic attempt to actualize racial bias furthers the perception of Arizona officials as bigots and of the state as unwelcoming.”

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