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Court thwarts challenge to abortion race and gender law

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A federal appeals court this morning slapped down an effort by two civil rights groups to sue to overturn an Arizona law outlawing abortions based on race and gender.

In a brief order, the three-judge panel acknowledged that being stigmatized by laws that appear to be racially discriminatory can be the grounds to sue. But in the unsigned opinion, they said that remedy is available only to those “who are personally denied equal treatment.”

And the judges said challengers to the 2012 law presented no such evidence when they made their case earlier this month. In fact, the attorney for the NAACP and the National Asian-Pacific American Women’s Forum acknowledged no woman had been denied an abortion because of the statute.

What that left, the appellate judges said, was simply the claim that black and Asian women had been the “targets of discriminatory intent.” And that, they said, is insufficient to provide them a right to sue.

Today’s ruling is a victory for House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, who shepherded the measure through the Legislature. So far, though, there is no evidence that any woman has been denied the ability to terminate her pregnancy based on the law.

But today’s ruling may not be the last word.

During the arguments in San Francisco earlier this month, one of the judges said a woman who was refused an abortion would have the right to challenge the law.

The judge also noted that the statute makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion knowing that gender or race is the basis for the woman’s decision. He said any doctor who was prosecuted under that law would have standing to challenge it.

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