Limiting Abortion Under the Guise of Anti-Racism

Reuters reports that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill yesterday that makes it illegal for doctors to provide abortions for parents seeking to terminate pregnancies on the basis of race or gender. As Planned Parenthood officials, quoted in the article, noted, there's not really any evidence that this is a widespread problem in Arizona or in the United States. More important, women often don't publicly cite their reasons for seeking an abortion. This law might have the perverse effect of changing that.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America also said the measure may erode a woman's rights, fearing that doctors for the first time would feel compelled to ask their patients the reasons for seeking an abortion.

It's really clear that the law just limits abortion rights. Sex-selection in abortions would be a real problem -- if it actually were a problem. I've tried, and failed, to imagine a scenario in which a mother, pregnant with her child and the child of her chosen partner, would suddenly discriminate against the fetus based on race, so that seems an invented problem as well.

The way the law is marketed, too, seems to be designed to get middle-of-the-road types on its side. Should you tell someone that we can't allow people to abort fetuses on the basis of race or gender, it sounds like a sexist, racist thing is happening and maybe it's something we should think about stopping. Americans have always had a low tolerance for the icky factor related to anything that seems to involve parents engineering their families. Even if it were happening, which there's no evidence for, this bill would be wrong. We don't need to get into the business of wondering why women have abortions, and policing it. Would I be personally horrified to find out a woman and her husband routinely sought abortions of female fetuses? Yes, I would. Would I seek to stop them? No, not beyond any personal council or public criticism it's in my rights to provide. That's just the way it is. Sometimes, freedom means we have to live with the possibility of icky things.

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