April 21, 2016, 5:22pm
By Kanya D’Almeida
Cloaked in the language of “nondiscrimination,” the act would achieve the opposite goal, the letter says, by singling out women of color for additional scrutiny based on, among other things, the “gross mischaracterization” of Asian-American communities, in particular, as having a preference for male over female children.
Dozens of people of color sent a letter to Congress Thursday expressing outrage over the introduction of thePrenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2016 (HR 4924), which they say threatens the future of abortion care and codifies dangerous racist and sexist stereotypes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Black people, and Latinas.
Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, the bill seeks to impose criminal penalties on providers who perform abortions knowing that they are sought on the basis of the fetus’ race or sex.
It also seeks to criminalize anyone who coerces a person into seeking a race- or sex-selective abortion; anyone who raises funds for the procedure; or anyone who transports a woman into the United States or across state lines to obtain the abortion—and imposes a penalty ranging from a fine to a five-year prison term.
Cloaked in the language of “nondiscrimination,” the act would achieve the opposite goal, the letter says, by singling out women of color for additional scrutiny based on, among other things, the “gross mischaracterization” of Asian-American communities, in particular, as having a preference for male over female children.
This assumption, referred to in the bill as “son preference,” has no medical or empirical basis—as the letter points out, and as research has shown, birth sex ratios indicate that Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are having more girls on average than their white counterparts.
All of the letter’s 56 signatories are people of color who have had abortions. They say the bill would force providers to interrogate patients’ reasons for seeking care and “erect a political divide” between patients and their physicians, essentially transforming abortion seekers of color into “suspects in the exam room.”
Signatories say they are deeply troubled by the bill’s racist language, which came to the fore at a recent House hearing during which anti-choice activists and other witnesses evoked a history of eugenics by way of supporting the bill, essentially equating women who choose abortion care to slave owners and white supremacists.
“Several people of color—including immigrant folks, queer folks, and Black folks—walked out of that hearing feeling disgusted by the way terrible stereotypes were used to twist our history, and then put into the congressional record,” Renee Bracey Sherman, one of the original drafters of the letter, said in an interview withRewire.
“It was so deeply offensive to have to sit there and listen to people like Catherine Davis [of the anti-choice National Black Pro-Life Coalition] invoke the names of Black civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), saying, ‘They did not march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that Black women could have abortions.’”
She pointed out that King was a strong supporter of family planning, while Lewis has been an outspoken proponent of reproductive justice and abortion rights.
Bracey Sherman also said she was disturbed by the fact that Alveda King, a prominent figure in the anti-choice movement, was allowed to submit her testimony in a letter to Congress.
“I kept thinking, She doesn’t speak for me,” Bracey Sherman told Rewire. “I didn’t want her words to be the only ones representing people of color who’ve had abortions, because the overwhelming majority of us don’t regret our choices. I felt that we needed a voice too, we needed our testimony to be heard.”
Bracey Sherman, together with Kristine Kippins, who is the federal policy counsel for the U.S. Policy and Advocacy Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Shivana Jorawar spent the weekend drafting the letter.
“This letter was very personal for me as a Black woman who has had an abortion,” Kippins told Rewire in a phone interview. “I’d never publicly said that I’d had an abortion, and this has really compelled me to speak out.”
She recalled the moment in last week’s hearing when Chairman Franks repeatedly silenced Miriam Yeung, the executive director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and the only pro-choice witness at the hearing.
“At one point Yeung said very quietly, ‘Black women choose abortion,’” Kippins said. “And I realized, she was talking about me. So I felt I had to stand up and say, ‘Yes, I am one of those women, I chose abortion and it was the best possible thing for me. I need people to trust me, and women like me, to make those decisions for ourselves,’” she added.
Her words echo the efforts of reproductive justice advocates like those in the Trust Black Women Partnership who have long fought to assert Black women’s bodily autonomy and push back against a wave of discriminatory laws that directly target or disproportionately impact Black women. These include a recent rash of anti-choice laws that impose medically unnecessary safety regulations on providers and force women to delay care by insisting on multiple medical appointments.
“If legislators actually care about women’s health they should work towards making abortion available to our community. They should vote the Women’s Health Protection Act, and the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act into law,” Kippins stated.
“We need access to housing, job opportunities, education for the children we already have. Lawmakers need to stop wasting our time and taxpayers’ money with bills like this and start addressing the civil rights and economic needs of the Black community and our Asian and Latina sisters and brothers,” she said.
Race- and sex-selective abortion is not a widespread occurrence in the United States, but anti-choice groups and lawmakers have cited isolated studies claiming to document the practice occurring in immigrant communities as a way to push anti-abortion legislation in the past.
Drafters of the letter say the current proposed act echoes these same cultural and racial stereotypes, and represents a blatant attempt to control women’s bodies.
“As an Indo-Caribbean woman, I can think for myself—I don’t need oversight from misogynist and paternalist politicians,” Shivana Jorawar said in a phone interview with Rewire.
Jorawar had her abortion when she was in high school. She was 15 years old at the time, harboring dreams of becoming a lawyer and making her family proud.
“My parents were immigrants from Guyana. They came here with almost nothing to their name, and access to education was really an important part of their American dream,” Jorawar explained, adding that they sacrificed almost everything they had to pay for tuition and send her to the best possible schools, working minimum-wage jobs around the clock to do so.
“They uprooted themselves and crossed borders and oceans to get to this strange land only to be greeted by discrimination. So to me, in that moment when I found out I was pregnant, I just felt I could not let my family down by ruining my chances at academic success,” Jorawar said.
She had the abortion and went on to become the first lawyer in her family.
“Every time I see my parents beaming with pride when they introduce me to new people and say ‘My daughter is a lawyer,’ or every time a young woman in my community comes to me for mentorship, I’m reminded that I made the right decision for my life,” she told Rewire.
“So this suggestion that we can’t make our own decisions, that we are not people capable of having a vision for our lives, is just incredibly insulting and it needs to stop,” she said.]]>
By Sital Kalantry
April 20, 2016
(WOMENSENEWS)—You may have never heard of the word PRENDA. But the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held a hearing on it on April 14.
PRENDA stands for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016.
If enacted, the bill would subject medical professionals to up to five years imprisonment for performing an abortion on a woman who wants to abort the fetus because of its race or sex. A similar bill was defeated in the House of Representatives in 2012.
Sex-selective bans have been introduced in over half of the state legislatures in the United States and have been passed by eight of those legislatures. But in addition to banning sex-selective bans, this federal bill reaches further, banning race-selective abortions as well.
Arizona is the only state to ban race-selective abortions. Eight other states and the United States Congress have considered and rejected race-selective bans.
The rationale behind sex-selective abortion bans is tied to countries such as India and China. It is widely known that there is a male-surplus in India and China and it is attributed to sex selection. India has attempted to curb the practice by prohibiting medical professionals from revealing the sex of the fetus and several countries ban sex selection through IVF and other pre-conception or pre-implantation methods.
But PRENDA only restricts abortion.
In the United States, reproductive rights advocates have long argued that sex-selective abortion bans are “wolves in sheep’s clothes.” I have also authored and co-authored a number of academic papers on sex-selective abortion bans in the United States.
While sex-selective abortion bans have received much attention, fewer people have written about race-selective abortion bans.
American anti-abortion advocates invented race-selective abortion bans. Supporters argue they are designed to address the disproportionate rate of abortion among minority communities. They believe abortion providers target minority women for abortion. Catherine Davis, on behalf of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, testifying in the subcommittee hearing argued that PRENDA was needed to “hold Planned Parenthood accountable.”
The reality is that instead of addressing the real reasons for the disproportionate rate of abortions among some minority groups, PRENDA accuses minority women of racially discriminating against their own fetuses. This, as Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., put it in his statement, “is absurd on its face.”
The text of the race-selective abortion ban was crafted to mirror the language of sex-selective abortion ban. However, this analogy becomes absurd when the actors with the purported racist and sexist intent are brought into the picture.
Proponents of sex-selective abortion bans argue that Asian Americans discriminate against the sex of their fetuses and this causes a disproportionate number of abortions of female fetuses. They further incorrectly argue that there are massive numbers of “missing women” in the United States. They then apply the same logic to race and argue that race discrimination causes a disproportionate number of minority fetuses to be aborted.
In the case of sex-selective abortion bans, proponents argue that the sexist beliefs of Asian American parents cause them to obtain the abortions. But supporters of race-selective abortion bans believe that it is the racist views of abortion providers that cause a disproportionate number of abortions among minority communities. Yet, the text of the bill prohibits medical professionals from performing an abortion if the patient is seeking it on the basis of “color or race of the child, or the race of a parent of that child.”
It makes little sense to say that minority women obtain abortions because they object to the race of their own fetuses. Yet, PRENDA rests on exactly that assumption. The point that the concept of “race” itself is socially constructed is beyond the scope of this piece.
It is true that the rate of abortion among African American women is five times higher than among Caucasian American women and for Latina women it is twice as high. Some point out that the disproportionately higher rates are due to a lack of access to and failure to use contraception.
This imbalance is an important concern that should be studied, discussed and solved.
PRENDA is not intended to do that. Instead, as Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum testified, it will lead to racial profiling and will strain the doctor-patient relationship.]]>
917-410-7242 / firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in the challenge to President Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. At issue is whether President Obama’s actions exceeded his presidential powers and would impose burdens on states. Among other reforms, the executive order would have given thousands of immigrants work permits and temporary relief from deportation. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) Executive Director Miriam Yeung issued the following statement in support of the DACA and DAPA programs:
“As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the fate of immigrants, the nearly 500,000 AAPI people eligible for relief under the expanded DACA and new DAPA programs continue to languish. Because of our broken immigration policies, more than 1.3 million undocumented Asian immigrants are at risk of deportation. They live in fear of being needlessly separated from their children and families. All children, citizens or not, deserve the security that comes from knowing that they will not be uprooted from their homes, deported and possibly taken from their parents.
“Every day that we wait for a decision from the justices brings untold suffering by tearing families apart — depriving children of their parents. We applaud the president and his administration for taking a strong stand in support of immigrants. We call on the high court to deliver a swift and just decision to affirm the executive actions.
“We demand that Congress move forward with immigration reform so that the many Asian American and Pacific Islander women — including workers, community leaders and survivors of gender-based violence — can continue to contribute to our economy and live free from the fear of family separation.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF): 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 American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls.
By National Partnership for Women & Families
April 15, 2016
“Once again, [antiabortion-rights] politicians are attacking abortion rights for women of color through the so-called Prenatal [Nond]iscrimination Act” (PRENDA) (S 48), write Marcela Howell, executive director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, and Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, in an opinion piece for The Hill‘s “Congress Blog.”
According to Howell and Yeung, PRENDA “is a blatant attempt to limit abortion access and is an affront to Black and Asian women.” They write, “Since it was first proposed in 2008, it has served as a blueprint for states to introduce ‘race and sex selection’ abortion bans.” They note that as of last month, eight states ban abortion sought because of the sex of the fetus, “one state prohibits abortion for reasons of race, and one state prohibits abortion when the fetus may have a genetic anomaly.” Regardless of the type of ban, each “share[s] common purpose and impact: to block those who need it from getting abortion care,” Howell and Yeung write.
Similarly, they explain that while PRENDA “purports to address racial and gender discrimination, … its real purpose is to chip away at abortion rights.” The measure “is especially punishing because of the precedent it would set,” the authors write, noting that current “federal law does not judge or interfere based on a woman’s reasons (real or perceived) for choosing abortion care. And it shouldn’t.”
Howell and Yeung cite research showing that most “Americans believe that a woman knows what is best for her and her family” and that most black U.S. residents “trust Black women to make the important personal decisions that are best for themselves and their families when it comes to abortion.” In contrast, “rather than supporting racial and gender equality, this bill decreases quality care for Black and Asian women by interfering with the relationship between doctors and their patients,” they write. According to the authors, “If this bill passes, doctors will be forced to act as police interrogators in the exam room. No woman should ever be scrutinized based on her racial and ethnic background, but this is exactly what these bans encourage.”
For example, the authors note that the bill “perpetuates hurtful racial stereotypes about Black women” by implying that black “women are incapable of making ‘right’ and ‘sound moral’ decisions about their reproductive health.” Moreover, “the bill perpetuates the offensive stereotype that Asian American families do not value the lives of their girl children,” Howell and Yeung write, despite research showing that abortions based on the sex of the fetus are “not a widespread problem [in the United States] and in fact, Asian Americans are actually having more girls on average than white Americans.”
According to Howell and Yeung, “Women of color already face difficulties accessing healthcare and experience poorer health outcomes than their white counterparts.” They note that “Black women are more likely to die from preventable pregnancy-related causes than white women, and their unintended pregnancy rate is higher than any other ethnic or racial group,” while “Vietnamese[-American] women are five times more likely to die from cervical cancer than white women.” In addition, both black and Asian American women are prevented “from accessing healthcare every day” because of high poverty rates, the authors write.
“Unfortunately, PRENDA would make healthcare outcomes for women of color even worse,” Howell and Yeung state, noting that limiting access to abortion care “exacerbates racial disparities in healthcare.” They write, “In short, you cannot give women rights by taking away our rights. Instead of combating racial and gender discrimination, PRENDA is nothing more than an attempt to limit abortion access for women of color. Under the guise of promoting equity, this bill perpetuates stereotypes about women of color and undermines our constitutional rights” (Howell/Yeung, “Congress Blog,” The Hill, 4/14).]]>
By Jennifer Gerson
April 15, 2016, 9:21am EST
A bill to outlaw abortions based on sex or race that Democratic lawmakers and advocates have called a “nightmare” made its way to the US House of Representatives committee floor late Thursday, where Republicans invoked Frederick Douglass, the Book of Matthew and Thomas Jefferson in arguing that abortions they believe to be discriminatory should be criminalized.
“It took the civil war to make the state-sanctioned practice of human slavery come to an end,” said Representative Trent Franks, the bill’s sponsor, at a House judiciary subcommittee hearing Thursday. He said that while the US has “made great progress” in the advancement of civil rights and bringing an end to racial discrimination, “one glaring exception is life itself, the most foundational civil right of all.”
The Prenatal Discrimination Act (Prenda) seeks to make it illegal to have an abortion based on the sex or race of the fetus. But advocates argued the proposal would force physicians to report on patients they suspect of having an abortion for those reasons without having any real way of knowing. They warn it would also effectively institutionalize racial profiling on the behalf of doctors and violate the physician-patient relationship.
“This bill is so horrendous that I could not believe it when it was first brought up,” said Representative Judy Chu of California. “It is a nightmare. This is a piece of legislation that would impose criminal penalties on providers and limit the reproductive choices of women of color and all women.”
She said providers facing the possibility of jail time for failing to report would be encouraged to report on minority women having abortions as a catch-all, and worried that it could also further discourage physicians from serving underrepresented communities.
Chu also pointed out that the committee is composed of all men.
“It’s so upside-down,” Chu said. “This shows that this is a male-dominated effort and actually points to the fact that there are men who are trying to stop choice for women.”
“This bill is bad on so many levels, the most obvious being that this is garnering a hearing in the subcommittee on the constitution and this is clearly unconstitutional,” says Miriam Yeung, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the only pro-choice witness called to testify before the committee. “This bill was created specifically to challenge Roe v Wade through creating a pre-viability reason to ban abortion. It’s extra horrible to do so under the pretense of trying to eliminate racial and gender discrimination when this is very discriminating against women of color.”
According to Yeung, the University of Chicago report Replacing Myths with Facts found that one of the top myths used in support of abortion bans, and especially sex and race discrimination abortion bans, is that Asian American women are more likely to abort a fetus if they know it is female, a mental trick of applying the historic effects of China’s one-child policy on the lives of women of Asian descent. Yeung says the data finds just the opposite: Asian American women give birth to more girls in the US than white women.
“They are blanketing our community using xenophobic stereotypes with what’s happening in India and China,” said Yeung. “In some states [that have passed such bans on the state-level], in the testimonies you’ll hear legislators on record saying: ‘We have to stop that from happening here. They are bringing those values to our country and we have to stop it.’ This is old-fashioned ‘yellow fear’, but not based on reality or fact.”
Yeung adds that even a woman’s off-handed comment to her healthcare provider, such as “I hope I have a boy one day”, could force the provider under the bill to “turn into a police person”.
Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong, the National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, said Prenda is a targeted measure to devalue black lives.
“What we see now is legislation like this, co-opting the notion that race is such a serious issue in this country and trying to spin it in a way that benefits a very specific legislative agenda is just wrong,” said Simpson. “These kinds of anti-choicers, or pro-birthers as I like to call them, don’t care about the conditions of our lives like the schools we’re doing to, the food we are eating, the environment we are living in.”
Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee said at the hearing he was “disturbed” that the hearing on Prenda was even being held, calling it an “assault on women’s right to choose and has nothing to do with discrimination on race or sex”.
The Democratic congressman commented that the south is especially good at three things: “barbecue, football and thwarting a person’s opportunity to vote”. Cohen said that he wished the judiciary committee were instead spending its time on expanding voting rights, ensuring equal pay for women and finding ways to make childcare accessible so that more women could engage in the workforce. These, he said, were the real ways to cut down the rate of abortion in the African American community.
Simpson added that the bill is a purported solution looking for a problem.
“If you ask a black woman if she has had an abortion because her child is black, she will say that’s absolutely insane. She would instead talk about her economic state, her access to healthcare, whether she might be in a violent relationship,” Simpson says. “Our elected officials are supposed to be in office to move forward legislation to make us healthier and better, but I’m seeing the opposite. So it makes me question a lot of things, especially as a black woman living in this country. With bills like this, it becomes more and more obvious that my life doesn’t matter and that’s disheartening and hard to hold as a person who has to walk in this world every day.”]]>
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
April 15, 2016, 11:02am
On Thursday, Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), as well as advocates for Asian-American, Latino, and African-American women spoke out against H.R. 4924, also known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), which they characterize as racist and anti-choice, according to Chu’s office. On the same day, the all-male House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice held a hearing on the bill.
H.R. 4924 seeks to ban sex-selective and race-based abortions. Advocateshave argued that sex-selective abortion bans exploit racial stereotypes and impede healthcare access for Asian-American women by inserting racial profiling into the center of the doctor-patient relationship. A 2014 study from the University of Chicago debunks the myth that Asian cultural preferences for sons contribute to the practice of gender-based abortions and shows that Asian Americans actually have more girls than boys.
“PRENDA doesn’t just seek to take away a woman’s right to an abortion, it peddles a dangerous and ugly stereotype that Asian-American, black, and Hispanic women are more likely to seek an abortion because of sex or race,” Chu told NBC News. “Airing this kind of prejudice in a Congressional hearing gives it legitimacy. It also insultingly tells minority women that they cannot be trusted with making decisions for themselves.”
H.R. 4924 would make medical professionals liable for discerning the motivations of their patients. Doctors who knowingly perform abortions sought on the basis of sex or race could be prosecuted, and doctors and nurses would be required to report patients for whom they suspect such motives, according to the text of the bill.
“If PRENDA becomes law, it will come between a woman and her doctor, and actually creates a perverse incentive for doctors to racially profile their patients. This is wrong,” Chu said.
Nine states in the United States — Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota — currently have laws prohibiting sex-selective abortion. A 2014 University of Chicago study found that five years after enacting sex-selective abortion bans in Illinois and Pennsylvania, there was no change in the male-to-female sex ratios at birth.
“Today’s hearing exposed the racist stereotypes against Asian Americans that anti-abortion advocates are perpetuating to ban abortions for all women,”Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, told NBC News. “Asian Americans do not express a preference for sons. Rather, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are clearly in favor of legal abortion and for keeping politicians out of personal medical decisions.”]]>
By Christina Cauterucci
April 14, 2016 3:29pm
A Congressional subcommittee is holding a Thursday-afternoon hearing on a bill that would ban abortions obtained because of the fetus’s sex. Advocates for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) claim they’re simply trying to prevent sex discrimination. But laws like these, which already exist in eight states, are rooted in the racist notion that Asian-American women abort female fetuses because they prefer boys.
The bill has come up before previous sessions of Congress. In 2011,ThinkProgress reports, it was dubbed the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act and would have banned race-based abortions, too. (The two luminaries named in the act point to the classic anti-choice argument that we shouldn’t abort fetuses because they could grow up to be famous civil rights activists.) That bill failed, but it’s reemerged in various forms since then.
Every time right-wing activists raise the concept of sex-selective abortions, they further a misleading narrative that defames Asian-American women. On Wednesday, the anti-choice Charlotte Lozier Institute released a paper written by Anna Higgins, who is one member of a panel testifying before Thursday’s House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. “Sex selection in favor of males is practiced in some Asian immigrant communities within the U.S.,” the report reads.
Studies have disproven this claim. “In the United States, there is limited and inconclusive evidence that immigrants from [East and South Asia]—or anywhere else—are obtaining sex-selective abortions,” the Guttmacher Institute reports. Bans on sex-selective abortions are barely enforceable—there’s nothing to stop a woman from hiding her reason for wanting an abortion—but they do burden providers, who must question all women about their reasoning. The laws also create a culture of stigma around abortion-seeking Asian-American women and immigrants, who already face barriers to contraception and reproductive health services.
These bans don’t have any effect on the number of female fetuses carried to term, either. When the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum analyzed sex ratios at birth in Illinois and Pennsylvania five years before and after the states passed sex-selective abortion bans, it found that the laws were not responsible for any changes in the ratios. That didn’t stop Indiana’s state legislature from passing a similar anti-abortion law, which Governor Mike Pence signed into law late last month. The bill prohibits abortions for reason of a fetus’s race, sex, or any disability, including Down Syndrome; even Indiana Republicans found it too extreme. Seven other states currently ban abortions obtained for reason of sex: Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota, which is the only state besides Indiana to ban abortions based on genetic anomaly or disability.
Cloaking racist bills in the term “nondiscrimination” falls in line with the en vogue tactic of anti-choice advocates: using the rhetoric of women’s rights to camouflage legislation that actually restricts their rights. We’ve seen it in laws that hamper women’s health providers under the guise of protecting women’s health, and we’re seeing it at Thursday’s House subcommittee hearing, where anti-choice activists are testifying to false information that stigmatizes Asian-American women while feigning concern for Asian-American female fetuses.
If members of Congress were truly worried about sex discrimination, they’d work to mitigate the gender wage gap, enforce Title IX provisions for survivors of sexual assault, and get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers—you know, policies that have actually been proven to help women. And if members of Congress truly wanted to preserve even sex ratios at birth, they’d seek to ban sex selection at other steps along the route to pregnancy, such as sperm sorting and genetic testing before in vitro fertilization.
But they’re not, because PRENDA is just another way Republicans are trying to prohibit abortions point blank. “There are better ways to combat gender bias than taking away a woman’s ability to make personal, private medical decisions,” wrote three activist women of color when PRENDA surfaced in 2012. A woman’s reason for obtaining a legal medical procedure shouldn’t be subject to any politician’s litigation.
By Alex Zielinski
April 14, 2016 12:46pm
The House will hear arguments on a controversial anti-abortion bill Thursday — one that purports to combat discrimination but that actually relies on racist stereotypes.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) aims to penalize doctors who attempt to perform an abortion that is motivated by gender discrimination of a fetus. However, PRENDA is less an actual piece of effective legislation and more a way to perpetuate an entirely false trend — the notion that women are having abortions based on the the sex of their fetus. The bill is rooted in the assumption that Asian American women discriminate against daughters, which causes a disproportionate number of abortions of female fetuses.
This idea is backed by no legitimate studies or data in the United States. Instead, this idea is illustrated through anecdotes by anti-abortion activists that call this a “civil rights struggle that will define our generation.”
Few civil rights advocates agree.
“PRENDA threatens women’s health and perpetuates the racist myth that Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) families do not value girls,” said Miriam Yeung, Director of National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum in a Thursday press release. “Even though it is cloaked in the language of civil and women’s rights, this bill is antithetical to gender and racial equality. Rather than protect baby girls, this bill will endanger women’s health and restrict women’s rights.”
Using civil or women’s rights as a facade to pass anti-abortion legislation is not a new strategy. For the past year, anti-abortion lobbyists and lawmakers have pushed vehemently to shutter safe and necessary abortion clinics across the country to “protect women’s health.” One of these cases is nowwaiting for a Supreme Court decision.
“[PRENDA] is a veiled attempt to restrict health care for women of color under the guise of civil rights,” writes Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition made up of 200 national civil rights organizations.
In the coalition’s letter to Congress in opposition to PRENDA, Henderson points out that other reproductive health issues paired with civil rights, like the fact that African-American women and Latina have far less access to contraception and prenatal care than other women, are more important than a bill that “does nothing to address ongoing discrimination.”
“Instead of addressing these critical issues, this bill exacerbates the disparities by further restricting certain women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, scrutinizing the health care decisions of women of color, and penalizing health care
providers who serve communities of color,” he writes.
This isn’t the first time conservative lawmakers have tried to make PRENDA law. In 2011, radical right-wing members of congress fought for the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, an earlier version of the current bill that also contained a ban on hypothetical “race-selective” abortions. Both the bill’s title and intention attracted instant criticism from civil rights leaders.
Deemed “unconstitutional” by law experts, the bill failed to gather enough votes in the House. But its backers apparently weren’t ready to let it go. Following the 2011 decision, bill sponsor Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) made this intent clear: “I am confident that this is not the end, but merely the opening salvo in ensuring the words, ‘It’s a girl,’ are no longer a death sentence for so many unborn girls.”]]>
By Bradford Richardson
April 13, 2016
Feminist activists may find discrimination in the workplace deplorable, but they’re all for discrimination in the womb.
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), which would prohibit abortions sought solely on the basis of the race or sex of the unborn.
Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum, is scheduled to offer testimony denouncing the nondiscrimination bill as “racist.”
“PRENDA threatens women’s health and perpetuates the racist myth that Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) families do not value girls,” Ms. Yeung said Wednesday in a statement. “Even though it is cloaked in language of civil and women’s rights, this bill is antithetical to gender and racial equality.”
“PRENDA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” she said. “Rather than lifting the status of women, it is nothing more than a cynical, deceptive attempt to ban abortion.”
Ms. Yeung is not the only prominent women’s rights leader denouncing the anti-discrimination bill as discriminatory.
Marcela Howell, founder of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, concurred that the bill “perpetuates hurtful racial stereotypes about Black women.”
“The implication is that we are incapable of making ‘right’ and ‘sound moral’ reproductive health decisions,” Ms. Howell said in a statement. “Unlike the conservative GOP, we TRUST Black women to make the important personal decisions about abortion that are right for themselves and their families.”
And Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterStrong and director of the Trust Black Women Partnership, said the anti-discrimination legislation is couched in “racist and anti-immigrant stereotypes about women of color and constitutes a direct assault on Black motherhood.”
She also said the bill would discourage doctors from “providing care” in communities that have historically been “underserved” by the abortion industry.
Blacks make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but made up 36.7 percent of abortions in America in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the nation, was founded by Margaret Sanger, a eugenicist who backed the sterilization of and immigration restrictions against “mental defectives,” pushed the “Negro Project” to reduce black birthrates, and tried to enlist the Ku Klux Klan women’s auxiliary in her eugenic efforts.
According to Protecting Black Life, 79 percent of Planned Parenthood surgical abortion facilities are located in neighborhoods within walking distance of heavily black or Hispanic neighborhoods.
Given the abortion industry’s disproportionate effect on the black community, the Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., founder of blackgenocide.org, said it is ironic that a bill prohibiting discriminatory abortions is being denounced as “racist.”
“I would say that that person in the womb is the one being discriminated against,” he said. “I applaud the bill in that it is an incremental step in ending the discriminatory act of abortion.”
Mr. Childress, who is black, called the denunciations of racism a “political ploy.”
“When there are no scientific or rational reasons for your position, then cry racism,” he said. “It usually works.”
A poll conducted by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute in 2012 found that 77 percent of Americans oppose sex-selective abortions, particularly in the case of girls.
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, said sex-selective abortions are less of a problem in the U.S. than in other countries. In China, for instance, where boys are socially advantageous and sex-selective abortion was legal for several decades, there were 116 boys for every 100 girls born in 2014.
But Mr. Donovan said the law would still be beneficial for several reasons. He said it would allow America to denounce discriminatory abortion policies internationally; prevent prenatal discrimination before rapidly developing genetic technologies encourage the practice; and ease the stigma faced by historically disadvantaged groups who are the targets of discriminatory abortion practices.
He said opponents denouncing the law as racist are “grasping at straws.”
“Why should these rights apply postnatally, but never prenatally?”]]>
April 14, 2016
By Kastallia Medrano
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to consider the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016, also known as PRENDA. The legislation claims to help communities of color and even women by putting bans on sex-selective and race-based abortions. However, as NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue stated in her Congressional testimony to be given on Thursday (which Bustle was given an advance copy of) PRENDA could mean that abortion providers may face “five years in prison for failing to determine if race or sex is a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy.” Hogue added that, “ultimately, the legislation could erect new barriers to reproductive health care for women and perpetuates stereotypes about immigrant communities and communities of color.”
The Pre-Natal Nondiscrimination Act isn’t new. The legislation has been proposed multiple times. Perhaps most famously, in 2012, the House of Representatives rejected PRENDA legislation. Although it’s not getting much attention, PRENDA legislation is once again a concern
Opponents to the legislation — which in addition to NARAL Pro-Choice America include the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), Trust Black Women Partnership, and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda — say that, among other things, PRENDA would dramatically increase racial profiling among women of color, most notably black, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women. Activists have called the bill a wolf in sheep’s clothing, one that purports to care about women’s health and reproductive rights while actually restricting them in a racially motivated way.
“It’s a sneaky little bugger,” Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum, tells Bustle. “This bill would ban abortions off the backs of women of color and immigrants, and it tries to tell us it’s for our own good. The proponents cite ‘women’s rights’ and all of our social justice language and claim it’s to help eliminate discrimination.”
Bustle reached out to the office of Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) who introduced the legislation, but was unable to receive comment by the time of publication.
In 2012, when PRENDA legislation passed through the House Judiciary Committee (but, ultimately, failed to be passed in the House of Representatives), he released a statement that:
As Americans, all of us know in our hearts that aborting a little baby because he or she happens to be the ‘wrong color’ or because or she is a little girl instead of a little boy is fundamentally wrong, and represents a betrayal of the precious truth that all human beings are created equal, with the Imago Dei stamped on their souls.
I know when the subject is related in any way to abortion, the doors of reason and human compassion in our minds and hearts often close, and the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of what is being done to them can sometimes no longer be seen. But this is the civil rights battle that will define our generation. At the very least, we should be able to agree that allowing the lives of unborn children to be torn from them simply because they happen to be the ‘wrong color’ or the ‘wrong sex’ is not who we are as Americans.
Yeung is one of the people who will testify before the Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday regarding PRENDA. Since it’s widely believed among those fighting PRENDA that the legislation specifically targets black and Asian American women, I ask Yeung if the “sex-based abortion” aspect is tied to a mistaken belief that Asian American women abort female fetuses in a similar manner as, say, Chinese women. Yeung does not equivocate.
“Yes,” she said flatly, before giving an exasperated laugh. She then explains:
The bill proponents cite examples that are happening in India and China and, with xenophobic logic, assume Asian American women are importing those same barbaric practices here in the United States.
Yeung notes that many Asian American feminists have at times been concerned about the phenomenon of sex-selective abortion in Asian culture, only to look at the numbers and find that Asian American women, on average, are actually having more girls than white Americas, according to a University of Chicago study. Plus, while sex-selective abortion is not the widespread problem for Asian American women as it is for Asian women in other nations, the United Nations and the World Health Organization have been adamant that banning abortion is disastrous for women, and not the way to solve that problem anyway.
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
And what about “race-based” abortions? If we allow for a little oversimplification in the case of mixed-race fetuses, we can generally say that a black woman knows she is going to have a black baby. That means a black woman seeking abortion for any number of personal reasons can be ludicrously accused of choosing an abortion for race-based reasons.
“Therein lies the hypocrisy and the nonsensicalness,” Yeung tells Bustle.
“The racial profiling, the burden of this being put on the women. When black women are targeted with this bill, it’s connected to a larger racist campaign that says black women choosing abortion is endangering their [race], that it’s black genocide, they claim places like Planned Parenthood are causing black genocide.”
Hogue’s testimony also addresses the legislation’s problems with race, stating that the proposed legislation:
Subjects providers to fines and prison time for failing to detect that a woman is seeking abortion services for reasons of race or sex selection, the legislation essentially would encourage racial profiling in the doctor’s office.
“We oppose this bill,” Yeung says, “because it is a hypocritical attempt to restrict women’s rights while claiming to fight sexism and racism. You cannot give women rights by taking them away, and that it fundamentally the flawed logic behind this bill. It’s a bad policy solution in search of a non-existent problem.”
You’ll be able to watch the livestream of her testimony here at 3pm ET on Thursday.]]>