PHOENIX – Having an abortion because of the fetus’ sex or race is a violation of human rights, a Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.
Legislation authored by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would require women seeking abortions to sign affidavits saying the reason isn’t the sex or race.
“We need to have it in our books, in our laws, that something heinous like this shouldn’t be happening in our country,” Montenegro said.
On Wednesday, he addressed the House Health and Human Services Committee, which endorsed the measure on a 5-3 vote. Democrats Matt Heinz of Tucson and Katie Hobbs of Phoenix and Republican Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix dissented, giving reasons ranging from a lack of evidence that this is an issue in Arizona to the potential for doctors to be unfairly punished.
Under HB 2443, which was headed to the floor by way of the Rules Committee, doctors found guilty of knowingly performing a race- or sex-selection abortion would face fines up to $10,000. The affidavits, Montenegro said, would protect physicians if they were accused of performing an abortion for those reasons.
Montenegro quoted national media reports and studies that he said show evidence that sex-selection, common in countries like China and India, has spread to the U.S, leading women to terminate female babies in favor of males.
He cited statistics that he said were very new and was unable to offer specifics when questioned Hobbs and Heinz. Montenegro said that in this state, minority babies are several times more likely to be aborted than white babies, which he said is evidence of race-selection abortions.
A review of the latest Arizona Department of Health Services statistics, from 2009, showed that black women sought abortions at the highest rate, 168.1 per 1,000 live births, followed by white women at 119.6. The rate for Hispanics and Latinos was 86.1.
Opponents said higher abortion rates among minorities can be attributed to poverty and a lack of access to sex education and contraception, areas Heinz said could be improved with public funding that could bring down abortion rates.
Heinz, a hospital doctor, said the data Montenegro provided was incomplete and didn’t establish any proof that race- or sex-selection abortions are happening in Arizona.
Doctors could lose their licenses if accused of performing these abortions when it’s impossible to prove one happened because of race or sex, Heinz said.
“It’s just far too ambiguous to take our medical providers and put their licenses on the line for what I believe is an unenforceable piece of legislation,” he said.
Sydney Hay, who ran for Congress in 2010 as a Republican, testified in support of the bill on behalf of Defending America’s Future, a PAC affiliated with U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who has tried to pass similar legislation in the past.
The leading cause of death among blacks is abortion, and the practice has devastated Arizona’s black community, she said.
“Arizona … can lead the nation and do what’s right because it’s never right to abort a child because it’s supposedly the wrong sex or race,” Hay said. “If this bill only saves one child, that’s not going to show up in any statistic, [but] I think it’s worth it.”