Louisiana State Senate to vote on racially biased abortion ban

Published: Monday, May 25th, 2015
May 25, 2015
Lauren Gray

Louisiana State Senate to vote on racially biased abortion ban

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum calls bill “deceptive,” “dangerous”

BATON ROUGE — On Tuesday, committee members in the Louisiana State Senate will vote on HB 701, a bill that would ban abortions supposedly sought because of the sex of the fetus. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom oppose HB 701, as this bill is based on dangerous stereotypes of Asian Americans rather than facts, and opens the door to additional barriers to women’s access to health care.


“HB 701 is a deceptive and dangerous attempt to chip away at the protections of Roe,” said NAPAWF Executive Director Miriam Yeung. “Grounded in false and ugly stereotypes about Asian Americans in the United States, this bill would undermine the trust between doctors and communities of color and could potentially result in the denial of care for many women in our own community. Asian American women in Louisiana already face a multitude of hurdles to accessing reproductive health care, including language and income barriers. We don’t need another.”


Sex-selective abortion bans are often justified as necessary to counter son preference, an issue in some countries where women are not afforded the same status as they are in the U.S. However, data shows this rationale to be false. Asian American families are actually giving birth to more girls than white American families.


“Planned Parenthood recognizes Rep. Lenar Whitney’s HB 701, a measure that will ban sex-selective abortions, for what it truly is: another backdoor ban on abortion by politicians determined to outlaw safe, legal right for women and families one way or another. These abortion bans open the door for politicians to further intrude into a person’s personal decision-making process,” said Raegan Carter, Planned Parenthood Senior Director of External Services in Louisiana. “Furthermore, this sets a dangerous precedent for defining what reasons are or are not acceptable for women seeking an abortion and could lead to even more restrictions on access to safe, legal reproductive health care for women. At Planned Parenthood, we believe this bill is not the way to address discrimination against women and girls. You can’t give women rights by taking away their rights.”


Louisiana’s Asian American community has grown more than 31 percent over the past 10 years, and today, more than 85,000 Asian Americans live in Louisiana. NAPAWF urges lawmakers who want to improve the lives of Asian American women and families to instead prioritize advancing issues such as equal pay and immigration policy reform— or to ask Asian Americans in their districts which issues matter most to them.


“Louisiana is facing a budget crisis that may lead to cuts in education, health care, and social services,” said Jessie Nieblas, New Orleans Abortion Fund Board Member. “Instead of tackling these issues, bills like HB 701 will interfere with Louisiana women’s relationships with their doctors, restrict access to abortion care and stigmatize women seeking abortions. HB 701 demonstrates the lack of trust that legislators have for the diverse women in our state.”


“While Louisiana ranks one of the worst states for women in the nation, and we face budget shortfalls across the board, the fact that the Louisiana Legislature would support HB 701 is reprehensible. Not only is it racist in its implications, it is also unconstitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that states may not restrict a woman’s access to abortion prior to viability,” said Winter C. Randall, UniteWomen.org Louisiana State Director. “UniteWomen.org Louisiana stands in firm opposition to HB 701.”


“NOW Baton Rouge stands in opposition to HB 701,” said Angela Adkins, National Organization for Women, Baton Rouge, Board Member. “This bill is an unprecedented intrusion in private life and in the medical decisions best left between doctors and their patients. The Louisiana Legislature should focus on the more pressing matters before them like funding public schools, universities, roads, hospitals and libraries. Passing this bill, in opposition to federal law, will only increase the deficit during its litigation.”


“Government should not intrude into medical decisions that should be made by women, their families, their doctors and their faith. HB 701 is just another attempt to restrict abortion access,” said Michelle Erenberg, National Council of Jewish Women, Greater New Orleans Section State Policy Advocate. “Louisiana’s lawmakers should be focused on eliminating gender stereotypes that devalue women, building women’s leadership, increasing economic opportunity for women and improving women’s health outcomes.”


“The Independent Women’s Organization (IWO) members care about women— and advocate for women and their families to live safe, healthy, economically stable and productive lives,” said Lynda Woolard, Independent Women’s Organization President. “IWO opposes HB 701 sponsored by State Rep. Lenar Whitney for many reasons. It threatens women’s lives by trying to scare or entrap abortion providers thus making legal abortions harder to obtain. It demeans all women, but particularly women of color, by saying there is a problem when none exists. It does nothing to tackle the actual existing problems of discrimination against women and girls that IWO has been working diligently to tackle. There is irony in the fact that the primary author of the bill, State Rep. Lenar Whitney, has consistently voted against women and their needs on issues like Medicaid Expansion, Equal Pay and raising the minimum wage. IWO supports policy and legislation to help women and families thrive, and strongly opposes HB 701.”


“UU Voices for Reproductive Freedom stands with NAPAWF and the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom in opposition to HB 701 because the bill would restrict women’s access to reproductive health services. HB 701 is a government driven, non evidence-based piece of legislation that is likely to lead to medically unnecessary, cost prohibitive and potentially harmful tests for women,” said Vanessa Shields, UU Voices for Reproductive Freedom Member. “Furthermore, this unconstitutional abortion ban does nothing to combat gender-based discrimination, instead it fuels stereotypes that Asian Pacific Islander communities— and other communities of color— do not value girls.”


“HB 701, the sex-selective abortion bill, is a gateway piece of legislation that would continue the rhetoric of limiting a woman’s right to choose, operating under thinly veiled anti-abortion sentiments. While sex-selective abortions are, in fact, an issue abroad, there is significant research showing that this practice is not a deciding factor for having an abortion in the U.S. but would lead to the racialized targeting of women of Asian descent seeking termination services,” said Livia R. Harkow, Social Work Students United for Reproductive Freedom (SWURF) Co-Chair. “Additionally, HB 701 would violate Roe v. Wade and the constitutional amendment that ensures privacy between a woman and her doctor by allowing outside parties, such as family members, to sue a doctor based on an assumption of a performed sex-selective abortion. HB 701 does not combat gender discrimination; SWURF recommends that bills that truly aim at improving women’s health and care in Louisiana must be rooted in research and the realities of the local population.”



The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing, and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build a movement to advance social justice and human rights for Asian & Pacific Islander (API) women and girls.


The Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (LCRF), a statewide alliance of organizations and individuals, works to ensure sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for all people through advocacy, law and policy change and movement-building.


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