Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed a new bill into law today, one which makes it a crime to perform an abortion based on the fetus’ race or sex. The bill targets abortion providers by making it possible for the father of the aborted fetus, or the maternal grandparents if the mother is a minor, to press charges against abortion providers if it could be proved that this was the reason for the procedure. The measure supposedly protected against “capricious” abortions because parents or the mother wanted a baby of a different race or gender, but in reality, as I wrote when the bill was passed by the Arizona House last month, it provides just one more barrier for women who want to obtain an abortion for other reasons.
“It’s to stigmatize women choosing abortion and to create more fear and uncertainty for the medical professionals providing the care,” Bryan Howard, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, explained bluntly.
As Robin Marty, writing for RHRealityCheck, points out, the fear that fetuses are being aborted because of race or gender seems to be unfounded. Because gender can’t be detected until 14 weeks into the pregnancy, abortions would have to be performed after that time for gender to factor into parents’ or a woman’s decision. But the vast majority of abortions (96%, to be exact) in the state of Arizona were performed before 14 weeks, making it impossible for the women or providers to have known the fetus’ gender. And race seems like an absurd criteria – how exactly do women or providers detect the race of a fetus, except for the rather obvious facts of the parents’ ethnicity?
What this bill will do is make abortion providers more wary about performing abortions, which is bad for women. It will require doctors to ask women invasive, personal questions about why they’re obtaining abortions; doctors will also have to be more suspicious of their patients, and women of color will likely be the candidates for that new suspicion. This isn’t a victory for race or gender equality, it’s just another attempt to make abortions harder to access.
Photo from Flickr.