Bill would require abortion seekers to rule out race, gender as reason - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Bill would require abortion seekers to rule out race, gender as reason

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Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 6:57 pm | Updated: 9:55 pm, Wed Feb 2, 2011.

Women who want to terminate a pregnancy would have to justify they're not doing it because they want a child of a different sex or race under the terms of new legislation.

HB 2443, crafted by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would require a woman to sign an affidavit that she is not seeking an abortion because of the child's sex or race. Montenegro has a separate measure, HB 2442, dealing only with abortions based on sex selection.

Any doctor who went ahead with an abortion knowing that race or sex selection was the reason would face felony charges. And the legislation would permit the father of the unborn child, if married to the woman having the abortion, to sue the doctor for damages.

A separate measure sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix and 34 other Republicans from both the House and Senate would require doctors to perform ultrasound on the patient and offer to provide both an explanation of what is being seen and a physical picture of the fetus. HB 2416 also would bar abortions unless the woman was given the chance to "hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible.''

Yee, who said she opposes abortion, said she believes some women do not have a full understanding of what they are doing.

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said he is still studying the latter measure. But the proposal by Montenegro provoked an angry reaction.

"It's deeply offensive to suggest that women and couples are making decisions from a racial or gender bias,'' he said. "It just reflects a really warped perspective on the part of the proponents.''

But Montenegro said he has information "that there are targeted communities that the abortion industry targets.'' Montenegro said that, for the purposes of his ban, he defines an abortion based on race would include situations where the parents are the same race as the fetus.

As proof of that targeting, Montenegro said there is a higher rate of abortion among minorities. And he said more females are aborted than males which suggests some women may be using abortion for gender selection.

The Arizona Department of Health Services does not collect information on the gender of the fetus. And it is only recently it started to ask doctors whether a patient is Hispanic.

Montenegro, who promised supporting data when interviewed initially last week, said late Wednesday he will have more specifics to back those claims today.

Some legal questions remain.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Roe v. Wade ruling, said women have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy, at least in the first trimester. And while courts have made some modifications, that decision still stands.

"I don't agree with Roe v. Wade,'' Montenegro said. But even with that being the law, he questioned the scope of that ruling.

"I'm not sure that the court was saying gender selection through abortion was OK,'' he said.

Anyway, Montenegro said his measure is designed to prevent discrimination which also is prohibited by federal law. And that, he said, trumps the abortion rights.

"In this area, I think it's imperative that I step up and protect the life of a person if it's being discriminated against based on their sex or race,'' Montenegro said.

Constitutional questions aside, Howard said there are practical problems to the proposal.

"This legislation would require women and couples to present a case for their health care and then put physicians in the subjective position of deciding whether their reasons are valid enough,'' he said.

"The physician's role is to assess the clinical situation and to provide high-quality care,'' Howard continued. " This is really ... politicians putting physicians in a new role that physicians I know don't want.''

Yee said her legislation is simply an extension of existing laws to provide a "reflection period'' for women to consider what they are doing.

In 2009 the Legislature approved a 24-hour waiting period between an initial consultation to explain the procedure and the actual abortion, forcing a woman to make two separate trips to the clinic.

A judge ruled that two-trip requirement is unduly burdensome. But he said the waiting period is legal if the initial consultation can be done by phone.

Yee said HB 2416 would "make sure the mother has all of the information that is available before she's making a decision like this.'' Yee said, though, her ultimate goal would be to make abortion illegal.

"I believe that the abortion laws that are currently in place are infringing upon the rights of the unborn,'' she said. And Yee said she believes information like what she wants to mandate will reduce the number of terminated pregnancies.

"I have spoken to numerous young mothers who have been remorseful after they had the abortion in place,'' she said. Yee said one woman, given a copy of the pre-abortion ultrasound image after the procedure, told her she would have changed her mind had she seen it before "and hear the heart beat before.''

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