PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed what is likely the first legislation in the nation to ban abortions over ethnicity.
The law makes it a Class 3 felony to knowingly perform or provide financing for an abortion sought because of the race or sex of the fetus or a parent's race. The maximum punishment if convicted is 3 1/2 years in prison.
Supporters said the measure is an important statement against discrimination and for life.
"We are a multicultural society now and cultures are bringing their traditions to America that really defy the values of America, including cultures that value males over females," said state Sen. Nancy Barto, a Scottsdale Republican who supports the bill.
When the bill was being debated, supporters said they wanted Arizona to prevent discrimination-based abortions, and they disagreed with opponents over whether there's evidence that race and sex selection-based agendas are actually occurring in Arizona.
Critics said there's no evidence that selective abortions occur in Arizona, and doctors could face jail time if they lose a newly required affidavit that an abortion isn't for selection purposes.
Planned Parenthood of Arizona said Wednesday it strongly condemns Brewer's decision to sign a bill that is specifically designed by abortion opponents to polarize the public at the expense of the health needs of women and families.
"This law creates a highly unusual requirement that women state publicly their reason for choosing to terminate a pregnancy -- a private decision they already made with their physician, partner and family," Bryan Howard, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said in a statement.
"While we condemn racism and sexism in all forms, legislation that overrides the doctor-patient relationship is not in the best interest of Arizonans," Howard said.
The New York-based Guttmacher Institute, which tracks U.S. abortion laws, said the statute is the first to adopt a race selection ban on abortions. Illinois, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania already have laws that ban abortion for the purpose of gender selection.
Calls placed by The Associated Press to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, were not returned. The Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion organization, declined to comment Wednesday saying it was not involved with the legislation.