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Arizona Again Passes a Law to Ban Something That Nobody Does

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It seems that Arizona is determined to make a name for itself as the state that passes the most laws based on right-wing radio talking points.

The Arizona legislature has passed, and Governor Brewer is prepared to sign, a law that outlaws abortion if it’s motivated by the race or sex of the child, despite the fact that there’s virtually no evidence that this is actually a problem in Arizona, or anywhere else in the United States.

The new crop of “limited government” conservatives dominating the contemporary GOP seems to adhere to the philosophy of “the government should let you do whatever you want (as long as you get paid for it).”

I’m about as pro-choice as they come, but I could sort of see the need for a law of this nature, if there were a shred of evidence that abortions based on the race or sex of the fetus actually occurred in the U.S. with any frequency. Furthermore, because abortion is a constitutional right (with significant limitations) under Roe v. Wade, it’s presumably legal to get an abortion in Arizona, or anywhere else, for any other reason, or no reason at all.

Since Roe, states have tried to enact significant restrictions on abortion rights, and some of them have withstood constitutional scrutiny. Even if this one eventually were held constitutional, it would be very difficult to prove that race or gender was a motivating factor behind a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

In fact, given the burden of proof required in a criminal trial, I find it hard to believe that anyone could ever be convicted under this law. After all, we can’t read minds, and, in theory, a woman who has an abortion in Arizona could give any reason, and not be breaking the law (presuming she followed the other laws related to abortion, which typically dictate when and how an abortion can be performed, but not why), including “I just felt like it.”

I doubt that the people who wrote this law are under any illusions that anybody will actually be convicted under it, meaning that it’s unlikely to actually prevent any abortions from occurring. This law was likely passed to make a political point.

What that point is, I’m not so sure. Is it that having an abortion based solely on the race or sex of the fetus is a bad thing? I doubt many people disagree with that. Or maybe they’re using it to back up their claim that everyone who favors abortion rights secretly wants to use abortion as some type of eugenics/ethnic cleansing scheme? I honestly have no idea.

This law is obviously some kind of political stunt, given that it would be nearly impossible to enforce, but I really have no clue what this stunt is meant to accomplish. Maybe it’s some really bizarre effort for the GOP to attract minority voters. Or maybe it’s simply an attempt to appease a socially-conservative voter base.

Whatever the case, if any attempt to enforce this law is made, it seems quite likely that it would disproportionately affect minority women. And this is unfortunate, given the fact that most minority populations have disproportionately-high poverty rates. Attempting to enforce this law would likely force at least some poor, single mothers, who see abortion as the only option, to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. This will result in more children brought into the world and raised in abject poverty, thus continuing the cycle.

Perhaps politicians should shift their focus: instead of legislating against imaginary horrors like race-based abortion, they should look at the conditions that cause higher abortion rates in minority populations (poverty), and actually try and do something about it.

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

Ken LaMance

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