Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation to ban abortions based on the race or sex of the unborn child or based on the race of a parent.
“Governor Brewer believes society has the responsibility to protect its most vulnerable, the unborn,” the governor’s spokesman Matthew Benson told The Arizona Republic. He described the bill as consistent with the governor’s “pro-life track record.”
The law makes it a Class 3 felony knowingly to perform or finance an abortion sought on the grounds of sex or race, with a maximum punishment of 3 1/2 years in prison.
Illinois, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania already have laws barring sex-selective abortion, but the Arizona law is the first to ban race-based abortion, the New York-based Guttmacher Institute says.
Supporters of the legislation said discrimination-based abortions should be prohibited.
State Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Scottsdale) said that some cultures are “bringing their traditions to America that really defy the values of America, including the cultures that value males over females.”
Opponents said abortion-performing doctors could face jail time if they lose a newly required affidavit testifying that an abortion is not for race- or sex-selection purposes.
Those against the law also questioned whether there was evidence that such abortions are taking place in Arizona. Rep. Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) said the only proof bill sponsor Rep. Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) offered concerned India and China.
A 2008 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted by researchers Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund examined figures from the 2000 U.S. Census which showed “son-biased sex ratios” among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian Indian parents.
The researchers concluded the imbalanced sex ratios were evidence of sex-selection, “most likely at the pre-natal stage.” Similar sex imbalances have been documented among Canadian Asian immigrant communities.
Sex-selective abortions can have significant effects when practiced on a large scale. In China, millions of men have no women to marry in their age group because a traditional preference for sons has encouraged parents to abort unborn girls.