Racial Stereotypes Make Bad Law
In “Harmony, Balance and Rights: Who Pays the Price?” Suchitra Dalvie explores the impact of abortion restrictions and the price shouldered by poor women. As she notes, this is a universal price. In the United States this manifests itself as structural barriers, including the most notorious of them— the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of public funds for abortion services.
In the US, anti-abortion advocates use racist and xenophobic stereotypes about Asian American immigrants to pass laws that would criminalize doctors for providing abortions based on the sex of the fetus. Though the reality is that Asian American families are actually giving birth to more girls than white American families and we do not experience the same skewed sex ratios as in other countries, currently nine states have adopted such laws. Earlier this year, Congress held a second hearing on a sex-selective abortion ban.
Using racial stereotyping to stop access to abortion is harmful and must be firmly rejected. Asian American women already face significant barriers to accessing health care. The real solution would get to the roots of the problem—gender inequality and racism—with measures shown to improve the status of women. Such measures include culturally competent health care access, pay equity and ending violence against women—all priorities that legislators seeking abortion bans typically and consistently reject.
Lawmakers who want to make Asian American women’s and families’ lives better should prioritize advancing issues such as equal pay and immigration policy reform. Even those who oppose abortion should be able to stand in opposition to the disingenuous use of racist stereotypes and sexist attacks on women to ban abortion.
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
New York, NY