Minority groups in Arizona are pushing back against a state law that forbids abortions based solely on the sex or race of the baby, saying it unfairly targets black and Asian women.
Black and Asian-Pacific Islander women "are members of a protected class," said the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona.
The law violates their rights under the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause "because it stigmatizes their decision — and no other women's decision — to seek abortion care," said the complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiff groups — the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.
The lawsuit names Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, as well as the Arizona Medical Board and its executive director as defendants.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Horne said the office had no comment at this time.
In 2011, Arizona lawmakers became the first in the nation to enact a law forbidding abortions based solely on the race or sex of the fetus.
The law's intent is to combat the human rights issue of aborting children "because they're the wrong sex or race," state Rep. Steve B. Montenegro, lead sponsor of the bill, said during the debate.
The law also criminalizes efforts to coerce a woman to abort her unborn child because of its race or sex, or solicit or accept money to finance such an abortion.
Arizona abortion providers — who are asked to get signed affidavits from a woman saying the abortion does not violate this law — face a civil fine as well as possible legal action from the woman's family members if they violate the law.
The law is based on "offensive generalizations about our community," Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, told reporters Wednesday.
The law treats these women who seek an abortion "as a suspect and a threat to the survival of her own community by virtue of her race alone," added Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. The lawsuit is about "the right to be free from racial discrimination by the state."
Over the decades, sex-selection abortion, which pro-lifers call "gendercide," has created a shocking imbalance between boys and girls in a number of countries — especially India and China — with an estimated 163 million to 200 million "missing" girls.
In the United States, University of Texas economics professor Jason Abrevaya estimated in a 2009 study that there were at least 2,000 "missing girls" from 1991 to 2004 in some Asian populations in California. In addition, Dr. Sunita Puri published a 2011 article on 65 immigrant Indian women in the U.S. and their decisions to abort female fetuses, due to pressure to bear sons.
Daniel Pochoda, legal director of the ACLU of Arizona, said Wednesday that Arizona's law doesn't deal with what may happen "in a far-off land," and that state lawmakers did not provide any examples of sex-selection abortions happening in the state.
Separately in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner sentenced Pearl Gosnell, 51, to seven to 23 months in jail for her participation in racketeering, conspiracy and participation in illegal late-term abortions with her husband, Kermit Gosnell, 72.
Pearl Gosnell said she was sorry "for my part in this horror," and that she regretted believing her husband when he said the very late abortions they were doing were legal.
Judge Lerner also released Gosnell accomplice Adrienne Morton based on her 28 months in jail; Morton, who testified against Gosnell, admitted to third-degree murder, racketeering and conspiracy.
Sentencing was postponed for three other former clinic workers who have unresolved federal drug charges. Convicted co-defendant Eileen O'Neill, who pretended to be a doctor in the filthy clinic, is awaiting sentencing in July.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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