The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will take Arizona lawmakers to federal court this week to fight an anti-abortion law that uses false cultural stereotypes to frame a ban on abortion as a “civil rights issue.” Instead, the ACLU argues, the law intentionally targets and stigmatizes women of color.
Called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by opponents, this 2011 Arizona law requires every abortion provider to affirm in writing that their patient seeking an abortion did not do so out of gender or racial bias. On the surface, it seems relatively harmless and good-hearted — but the intentions behind the ban appear to be anything but.
“[The law] is a blatant violation of equal protection and the prohibition against state laws that discriminate on the basis of race,” the ACLU complaint states.
The law’s creators used racist stereotypes to back the need for its creation, arguing that Asian American women historically kill female fetuses and black women terminate their pregnancies because of racial biases. Neither arguments are based on existing data. None of the lawmakers involved have a history of supporting minority issues. These false stereotypes appear to be solely constructed by conservative lawmakers to block more women from accessing abortion care.
“We know that people from those countries and from those cultures are moving and immigrating in some reasonable numbers to the United States and to Arizona,” state Senator Rick Murphy (R) said after voting to help pass the legislation.
“And so with that in mind, why in good conscience would we want to wait until the problem does develop and bad things are happening and then react when we can be proactive and try to prevent the problem from happening in the first place?”
Instead of acknowledging the false narratives behind the original law, the ACLU will use scientific research on the negative effects of racism to back their arguments in front of a Ninth Circuit judge on Wednesday.
While six other states have bans on abortions that are based on gender, Arizona is the only state that also bans women from getting an abortion if the termination is based on a racial discrimination. Opponents see this law as just another way to make women of color jump through hoops to get an abortion — and could penalize the doctors working at clinics in predominantly black or Asian American communities.
“Arizona’s law is racist and paternalistic. It’s a ruse that presents a false choice between gender equality and the right to abortion,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, in a press call. “Far from protecting women, this law suggests that women of color cannot be trusted to make sound decisions about our own bodies.”
Yeung said this policy places a “badge of inferiority” on the targeted communities. To add insult to injury, she added, the law — titled the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 — deceptively uses the names of honorable civil rights leaders to present its discriminating case.
“It almost feels like the lawmakers wanted to make some kind of joke,” she said.