Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Arkansas Abortion Law Grew From A Racist Lie

by Keiko Zoll

On Wednesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an extraordinary anti-choice abortion bill into law: HB 1434, titled the Arkansas Sex Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act. Under the law, a doctor may not perform an abortion for the purposes of sex selection. It's an outrageously misguided bill with no bearing in best scientific or medical practices, and the justification for the bill is equally as problematic. The first claim under the legislative findings and purpose of the bill states "victims of sex-selection abortion are overwhelmingly female" And yet, that's just factually wrong — and here's the proof that the Arkansas abortion law grew from a lie.

The full text of the Arkansas Sex Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act is a deceptive masterpiece of legislative word-smithing, stating that "Women are a vital part of our society and culture and possess the same fundamental human rights as men." But don't be fooled: Two pages later, the bill outlines to what invasions of privacy Arkansas women must be subject before having an abortion performed. If a woman knows the sex of her fetus, the physician must "request the medical records of the pregnant woman relating directly to the entire pregnancy history of the woman," after she's been told sex selective abortion is against the law — and can't perform the abortion until they receive said records.

As if investigating a woman before she can get an abortion wasn't invasive and repulsive enough (and directly contrary to the bill's language that women have the "same fundamental human rights as men"), doctors who do perform abortions in violation of this new law face a Class A misdemeanor charge. That's right: Arkansas abortion providers just doing their jobs could face a criminal charge if they do. While the law is most likely in violation of Roe v. Wade's standard of "undue burden," the bigger issue here is that the entire justification for the Arkansas abortion law is built on a lie: No, pregnant American women are not aborting more females than males. It's a glaring fact missing from all six pages of the bill.

The Arkansas abortion law text states that countries such as China, Great Britain, and India have "taken steps" to end sex-selective abortion. That's the first fact that Arkansas lawmakers got wrong: Only China, Kosovo, Nepal, and Vietnam have actual laws prohibiting sex-selective abortion, according to a 2014 survey of sex-selective abortion myths and facts from the University of Chicago Law School. England made sex-selective abortion against the law in 2015. India doesn't prohibit sex-selective abortions by law; instead, it's illegal for physicians to reveal the baby's sex to the expectant parents.

Now, for whatever reason, Arkansas GOP-controlled state legislators felt the need to inject international cultural practice and policy into their state's laws. Some Asian nations prefer sons to daughters and practice sex selection that results in skewed male to female sex ratios, but, as the Guttmacher Institute notes, "In the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from these areas — or anywhere else — are obtaining sex-selective abortions in this country." The Arkansas abortion bill disproportionately targets Asian American women based on cultural practices in other countries. So, tell me again why this is a pressing concern for Arkansas lawmakers?

The Arkansas abortion bill has nothing to do with protecting female babies, despite its altruistic claims and alternative facts about sex selective abortions. In truth, there is no justification for this bill, because this rash of sex selective abortions in the country simply doesn't exist. And, women who are having abortions in the U.S. often are doing it for other reasons — often having to do with economics or with a lack of access to family planning services — not because of the fetus's sex. This bill is about punishing women for even considering abortions in the first place, subjecting them to a humiliating investigation into the reasons they might seek an abortion.

Apparently, Arkansas thinks the reason a woman seeks an abortion is their business, when in truth, it's no one's business but her own.