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ACLU of Arizona,
ACLU Nationwide,

December 9, 2015


SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union appeared in a federal appeals court today to argue that Arizona’s ban on so-called race and sex selection abortions intentionally targets and stigmatizes women of color.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, arguing that the law exploits racial stereotypes to discriminate against Black and Asian American women seeking abortions by requiring doctors – under the threat of criminal penalty – to racially profile their patients.

During debate over the law, Arizona lawmakers claimed that there was a racist plot to prevent the birth of Black children. These lawmakers also claimed the law was needed to prevent Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women in Arizona from having sex-selection abortions, even though Arizona’s own data showed no sex disparities among children born to AAPI women in Arizona as compared to women of other races.

"At a time when racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in this country is reaching a fever pitch, we are hopeful the court will see this law for what it is: an attempt to play on racial stereotypes to further politicians’ goal of preventing any woman from accessing abortion care,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

The federal district court in Arizona dismissed the case in October 2013 despite the overwhelming evidence of discriminatory intent, stating that the groups did not have legal standing to challenge the law. Today, the appeal was heard at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"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. "Far from protecting women, this law suggests that women of color cannot be trusted to make sound decisions about our own bodies."

Twenty-one states and the U.S. Congress have considered some form of abortion ban since 2009 and eight states have banned sex-selective abortions. These laws are part of concerted, nationwide effort to pass laws that make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to actually get one.

In addition to the ACLU, the NAACP, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, numerous civil rights groups, social scientists, and constitutional scholars have publicly opposed Arizona’s law.

A recording of today's arguments is available here: 

The briefs filed with the court can be found here: