Ninth Circuit Rules Women Have No Standing to Challenge Law That Forces Doctors to Racially Profile

December 16, 2015


NEW YORK — In an unpublished decision issued yesterday, a federal appeals court dismissed a challenge to Arizona’s ban on race- and sex-selection abortions for lack of standing.

The ACLU, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), argued that the law exploits racial stereotypes to shame and discriminate against Black and Asian-American women seeking abortions. 

The decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court decision that the racial stereotypes and intentional discrimination perpetuated by the law did not amount to legal injury. Neither court ruled on the merits of the law. 

“This law is nothing more than a cheap political ploy that exploits women of color to push an anti-abortion agenda,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. "While the decision stops far short from upholding the law, we are disappointed that the court would close the doors on the very women targeted by the Arizona legislature.”

The law, known as the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011,” purports to fight against racism and sexism by banning race-selective and sex-selective abortions. However, the laws stem from racist stereotypes that Asian-Americans do not value women and that Black women cannot be trusted to make their own abortion decisions.

During debate on the law, lawmakers argued that the law was needed to prevent Asian-American and Pacific-Islander (AAPI) women in Arizona from having sex-selection abortions. Data from Arizona showed no sex disparities among children born to AAPI women in Arizona as compared to women of other races. Supporters also cited higher rates of abortion among Black women as evidence of a racist plot.   

“For generations, AAPI women and girls in this country have been subjected to laws that stigmatize and stereotype our community,” said NAPAWF Executive Director Miriam Yeung. “By denying our members their day in court, the Ninth Circuit adds to this shameful legacy and lets unnecessary barriers to health care stand.” 

More than 60 similar bills have been introduced at the state and federal level since 2009. As these pieces of legislation become more prevalent, some cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have passed resolutions to prevent these types of laws from being enacted. A similar resolution is currently being considered by the New York City Council.

“The legislators who passed the law said precisely what they intended to do: to regulate Black and Asian women because they cannot be trusted to manage their own health care,” said Dianne Post, legal redress chair of the Maricopa County NAACP.  “The decision displays a complete tone-deafness to the history of women of color in this country and the effects of stigma and discrimination in the United States.”

 

Stay Informed