In our AP(eye) on the Hill newsletter, we share recent events impacting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls. In this issue, we are proud to share updates from our fierce activists on the ground, who inspire us every day with their commitment to gender justice for women in our community. We also applaud the nomination of Chris Lu as the next Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor, and share recent news on immigrant rights, reproductive justice law and policy, and voting rights.
January 22nd marked the 41st anniversary of the landmark case, Roe v. Wade. President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to women’s health and NAPAWF celebrated with our Roe photo campaign with sisters, activists, leaders telling the world that they are in the 78% of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) that support some form of legal abortion. It’s not too late for you to turn in your picture declaring you’re part of the 78%!
Immigration reform is still a top priority for activists across the country. Last year, leaders Eliseo Medina (SEIU), Dae Joong Yoon (NAKASEC), Cristian Avila (Mi Familia Vota) and Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners), fasted with Fast4Families for 22 days with nothing but water to highlight the moral crisis and suffering caused by our broken immigration system. NAPAWF sisters joined the thousands fasting in solidarity for the month of December, 34 sisters each taking a day to fast for 24 hours and passing on the baton to the next sister. We believe that our collective actions and raised voices can send a message to politicians that our hunger for justice persists despite their inaction.
This week, Republicans in Congress are expected to release principles stating their support for a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for many of the 11 million undocumented adults living in the shadows. For undocumented immigrants who came here as young children, Republicans are expected to offer a path to citizenship. Asian immigrants to the U.S. now outnumber Latino immigrants, and women and children make up the majority of the 11 million. NAPAWF is working hard to ensure the concerns of AAPI women and their families are addressed in this debate.
The House is expected to vote on HR 7, a sweeping anti-choice bill, this week. Instead of proposing measures to address income inequality, conservatives are reinforcing inequality by making restrictions on abortion coverage for poor women who qualify for Medicaid permanent, and also extending the restrictions to private markets. This is another mean-spirited attempt to interfere with a woman’s personal decision-making, one that falls hardest on women who are struggling to get by. Over 1 million Asian American women are living in poverty. We’re working with the All* Above All campaign to stop HR 7 and to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low income women.
January 8th marked the 50th anniversary on the “War on Poverty” which led to the creation of social safety net programs like Medicaid, Head Start and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. These programs and gains in access to healthcare and reproductive rights have helped women balance raising a family and pursing economic and educational opportunities. A war on poverty and the “war on women” go hand in hand. Today, reproductive health attacks, like the Hyde amendment, affect poor women and women of color the most. See NAPAWF’s new infographic on how reproductive health restrictions affect AAPI women.
Jan 8th- NAPAWF applauds President Obama’s nomination of Chris Lu as the next Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor. Lu will be the second Asian American to be nominated to a deputy secretary position. Lu is currently a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress. He started his career in public service in 1997, working for Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He eventually became acting chief of staff of Obama’s Senate office before moving to the Administration. During his time in the Administration, he also served as the Co-Chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
On January 24th, a federal judge struck down a 2011 North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and explain it to a woman before having an abortion, arguing it violated the constitutional right to free speech of doctors. North Carolina has the third fastest-growing AAPI population in the country.
Under the legislation — which took effect in October 2011 — an abortion cannot be performed unless a woman receives state-specified information about the procedure, an ultrasound and a description of the ultrasound image. The woman does not have to watch the ultrasound screen or listen to the description, but she had to sign a document acknowledging that the description was provided. The document had to be kept on file for at least seven years.
On Jan 16th, a bipartisan group of members of Congress introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision last June that struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This bill includes modern protections on communities of color including protecting language-minority voters with a language-assistance provision. New provisions will allow language-minority communities, like AAPI communities, to combat potentially discriminatory tactics. Though women of color are voting at increasing rates— voter turnout rates for AAPI women doubled since 2000—we are more at risk of disenfranchisement as attacks on voting rights have persisted.
On January 24th, Marlise Munoz was taken off life support and released to her husband, Erick Munoz after an 8-week battle between her family and the hospital. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in her home in November. After ruling her brain dead, following Texas law, the hospital kept Munoz on life support against the wishes of her family, in order to “continue the pregnancy on Munoz’s behalf.” Munoz had expressed that if she were ever to end up in this state, she would not want to be kept on life support. The hospital finally obeyed a court ruling to remove Munoz from mechanical support. Read more about thee dehumanizing pregnancy exclusion laws here.
On January 23rd, an Oklahoma judge ruled that a state law designed to make it more difficult to access emergency contraception in the state is unconstitutional, and permanently blocked the state from enforcing it. The ruling resulted from a hearing challenging HB 2226. The law, passed last spring, attempted to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception that have been removed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We know AAPI women already face barriers to accessing contraception and there is evidence they are less likely than other women to use it. We are watching this issue because access to emergency contraception is important for AAPI women—the last thing we need is another obstacle to reproductive health.