May 23, 2016, 9:15 AM
By Irin Carmon
Purvi Patel was bleeding through her layers of clothing when she arrived, alone, at the emergency room in Mishawaka, Indiana on the night of July 13, 2013. “I was feeling very disoriented, weak,” she later testified. “Physically, I was in pain.” She told medical staff she had passed “clots.” She said she thought she was 10 to 12 weeks pregnant.
For weeks, Patel, who lived with her religious, Indian immigrant parents and disabled grandparents, had been texting her friend Fay about cramps and missed periods. Maybe it was just stress, she said. Patel had been keeping her relationship with a coworker secret from her family. Her friend knew. She convinced Patel to take a pregnancy test, which came out positive. “My Fam would kill me n him,” Patel texted her friend, according to court filings. “I’m just not ready for it.”
At the hospital that night, she kept texting her friend, which the medical staff found strange for a woman in distress. They later described her as having a “flat affect.” Examining her, the obstetrician-gynecologists became alarmed: they saw signs of a far more developed pregnancy. Where was the baby? Had it been moving when it was born? Patel said it had not. She had placed the remains in a dumpster.
By then, Patel had lost about 20 percent of her blood, and needed surgery for the placenta that she had not yet passed. Shortly before rushing out of the hospital to search for what he believed could be a live baby, one of the doctors called the police.
When Patel woke up from sedation, there was a police officer stationed by her bed. Now, as the first woman in the United States to be convicted of feticide for having an illegal abortion, she faces 20 years in prison. Judges will hear her appeal Monday.
* * *
Last March, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump told MSNBC that if abortion is banned, “there has to be some form of punishment” for the woman. Anti-abortion groups protested that they had no intention of prosecuting women for having abortions under their desired ban — only doctors who allegedly victimize them. Trump eventually released a prepared statement to the same effect: “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
Patel’s case shows that the lines are not so clear. In the contemporary reality of illegal abortion, the woman and the provider are often one and the same. According to public health experts, a hundred thousand women have covertly tried to ended their pregnancies themselves in Texas alone, and legal abortion clinics closing across the country may make matters worse.
What happened before Patel got to the hospital remains fiercely disputed, including how far along her pregnancy was and whether she delivered a stillbirth or a live baby. But both sides concede that Patel ordered pills from InternationalDrugMart.com, similar to ones doctors administer for early abortions, and took them alone in her room. There was no back-alley butcher or a doctor defying criminal sanction. When she showed up at the hospital bleeding, she and no one else was charged.
Or as one of the prosecutors in Patel’s case succinctly put it in a hearing, “When she does the act, she is the performer.”
Abortion is legal in Indiana. But in 2009, after the shooting of a pregnant bank teller, Indiana legislators decided to stiffen the penalties for causing the death of a gestating fetus. The bill’s sponsor touted support from both Planned Parenthood and Right to Life. It is that law that Indiana prosecutors now say gives them the right to charge Patel.
Patel’s attorneys argue in her appeal that the law was intended to punish people who harm pregnant women, not the women themselves; attorneys for Indiana counter that there’s nothing in the law to stop them from prosecuting women.
That’s what worries women’s health advocates and supporters of abortion rights, who have rallied to Patel’s side. “These laws were meant to protect women,” said Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, which filed a brief in Patel’s appeal. “And now they’ve turned around and sent Purvi Patel to jail.”
* * *
At the trial in St. Joseph County — home of the University of Notre Dame — prosecutors told jurors a story of a cold and unfeeling woman who put herself first, lacking any maternal instinct. “The defendant took care of herself while her baby laid dying,” prosecutor Aimee Herring told the jury in her opening statement.
“On July 13, a little boy was born on a cold, hard bathroom floor,” prosecutor Mark Roule said in his closing statement. “The only touch he got from his mother was to move him from the bathroom floor to a garbage can.”
Patel, Roule declared, “decided to do what was easiest and most comfortable for her, even if it was not legal.” She waited until after a business trip to Chicago to take the pills she ordered, Roule said, because “it’s just not convenient so she decides to wait even longer to let the baby develop even more.” Roule even speculated Patel had avoided seeing a doctor because she feared being told she had passed Indiana’s 20-week limit and telling her parents she was pregnant.
“There is no do it yourself abortion,” Roule told jurors. “Not what is legal.” There were many mentions of all dumpsters that had been searched until the body was found.
The prosecution’s experts testified that Patel had likely given birth to a live baby who took a breath, who was at least 25 weeks and thus could have survived with prompt medical attention. The defense’s witness testified that the key expert had relied on a discredited test of whether the baby had breathed, and saw no evidence of a live birth.
To Yeung, the portrayal of Patel in the trial and the media smacks of stereotype. “There is a false narrative about Asian American women that we don’t care about our babies,” Yeung said. Even the repeated emphasis by prosecutors on Patel’s demeanor, Yeung contended, has “a racist context. Another stereotype of Asian Americans is that we’re inscrutable.” Her group’s brief notes that immigrant women in particular mistrust the medical system in part because of a history of abuses here or at home.
Indiana previously prosecuted a Chinese immigrant, Bei Bei Shuai, for feticide. (Shuai pled guilty to a lesser charge and is now free.) Patel was born in the United States, but Yeung argued, “Seeing both Bei Bei and Purvi as un-American contributes to harsher sentencing.”
* * *
In countries where abortion is fully illegal, women have found other ways that don’t involve the proverbial coat hanger. One half of the pill regimen that doctors administer to end pregnancy, known as Misoprostol, is likely to induce miscarriage. (Patel stands accused of taking both halves of the regimen.) In Mexico, all it takes to get the pill is walking into a pharmacy, where it is sold as ulcer medication. An online network of guerrilla abortion-rights activists, Women on Web, mails misoprostol to women in countries where it is banned, along with instructions about how to end a pregnancy safely – or at least, more safely than even more desperate means. Brazilian authorities recently seized almost all packages of abortion pills meant for pregnant women fearing the Zika virus there, who have no access to legal abortion.
Still, Women on Web does not work in the United States, and its site exhorts that “women who live in a country where they have the possibility to have a safe and legal abortion, should go to a doctor.”
Getting a legal abortion in Indiana means a required ultrasound and two separate visits to a clinic, possibly one surrounded by protesters. This year, after 30 years in business, the abortion clinic in South Bend, in the county where Patel lived, permanently closed. The same month, Governor Mike Pence, who made his name in Congress investigating Planned Parenthood, signed a host of new restrictions into law. They include regulations on abortion providers similar to the Texas law currently being considered by the Supreme Court, which could lead to the closure of more clinics.
According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, since 1973 – the year the Supreme Court struck down state abortion bans in Roe v. Wade – law enforcement and the courts have still arrested and prosecuted hundreds of women for pregnancy losses or poor pregnancy outcomes. Some cases involve drug use and the perceived harm to fetuses; others involve allegations of trying to end a pregnancy illegally. “These measures create a ‘Jane Crow’ system of law, establishing a second class status for all pregnant women and disproportionately punishing African American and low-income women,” the study’s authors, Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin, argued.
Paltrow’s group, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, also filed a brief in Patel’s appeal. “Stillbirths, miscarriages, abortions (including those that are self-induced and do not conform to abortion regulations), and women’s mental health during pregnancy are health issues, not matters for the criminal justice system,” they wrote. To involve the criminal justice system, according to the brief, would result in the “perpetuation of second-class status for women, and the likelihood that such prosecutions will target poor women and women of color, who are already disproportionately subject to law enforcement surveillance, arrest, and punishment.”
* * *
Patel comes to her appeal with a new legal team, including Stanford professor Lawrence Marshall, who founded Northwestern’s famous Center on Wrongful Conviction. In their appeal brief, they argue that the state failed to bring evidence that Patel knew how far along she was. They also say that the charges make no sense: How could the state argue that Patel committed feticide – causing the death of a fetus – when they also say she had a live birth whom she neglected? And even if the baby had been born alive, Patel’s attorneys argue, the state didn’t show that her seeking immediate medical attention would have made a difference.
At the heart of the appeal is whether, indeed, the state can prosecute a pregnant woman herself under a feticide law, when the abortion statute currently says a woman can’t be prosecuted for having an abortion.
Indiana prosecutors say Patel simply causing the end of her pregnancy amounted to feticide, even if there was no actual fetal demise. As for whether she herself could be put on trial, “the legislature has never included an exception in the feticide statute to prevent it from being applied to the pregnant woman herself,” the state wrote in its appeal.
In fact, the state’s attorneys added, before Roe v. Wade, Indiana, among other states, had a history of prosecuting women themselves for illegal abortion: “Enacted in 1881 and continuing in effect for almost 100 years, Indiana had a statute making it a criminal offense for a pregnant woman to solicit an abortion,” they wrote.
The state’s message was clear. Women once could be prosecuted for abortion. So why not again?]]>
By Paul Nichols
May, 19, 2016
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) today introduced the Access to Birth Control (ABC) Act, legislation to ensure that any woman with a valid prescription is not denied or intimidated when requesting birth control or emergency contraception at pharmacies.
“Sadly, in some states individual pharmacists are putting their personal views before their professional obligation, and are choosing to deny women access to birth control,” Sen. Booker said. “The Access to Birth Control Act ensures that a woman’s family planning decisions are the business of a woman, her family, and her doctor. I will remain a vocal advocate for women’s rights and fight to ensure we are doing everything possible to guarantee women in New Jersey and across the country have timely, unhindered access to contraception.”
“Decisions about birth control should be between a woman and her doctor, not her pharmacist, her boss, or her Congressman. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive heath, applauds Senator Booker for introducing this important legislation that protects women’s access to basic, preventive health care and ensures that women will not be denied birth control or emergency contraception at the pharmacy counter,” Dana Singiser, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America said.
The Access to Birth Control Act ensures women’s timely access to reproductive health care. It requires pharmacies to help a woman obtain her prescribed type of contraceptive. If the requested product is not in stock, it requires a pharmacy to order the prescription, refer the woman to another pharmacy, or return the prescription – whichever scenario the woman chooses.
The Access to Birth Control Act is cosponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Supporters of the Access to Birth Control Act include:
Advocates for Youth, American Association of University Women, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholics for Choice, Center for Reproductive Rights, Disciples for Choice, Disciples Justice Action Network, Feminist Majority Foundation, Institute for Science and Human Values, Jewish Women International, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Health Network, National Women’s Law Center, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection Action Fund, Population Institute, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Sexuality Information and the Education Council of the United States, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation.]]>
May 2, 2016
By AB Wire
Patel’s case comes up for appeal on May 23rd.
The case of the Indian American woman from Indiana, Purvi Patel, convicted for 20 years in prison for feticide, which comes up for appeal on May 23rd, is being keenly watched by activists and experts in the United States as it could be a seminal judgment for reproductive rights, and the criminalization of an abortion of a pregnancy, even if through accident.
On March 30, 2015, Patel, 33, became the first woman in the US to be convicted and sentenced on “feticide” charges for ending her own pregnancy. Patel says she had a miscarriage. When she arrived, bleeding, at a hospital near South Bend, her doctor called the police on her. The state of Indiana charged her with both feticide for allegedly inducing an abortion, and child neglect for allegedly having a premature baby and then allowing the baby to die — an inconsistent and contradictory set of charges.
Salon reported that reproductive rights activists are keenly following the case. Farah Diaz-Tello, senior staff attorney at National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told Salon that if the state of Indiana permits Patel’s prosecution to stand it will change the way women can be prosecuted: “The state has used laws that were never intended to punish pregnant people for losing or ending a pregnancy, and now unless the appellate court steps in, anyone who self-induces an abortion at any stage (which is becoming increasingly common as abortion clinics vanish) could be charged with feticide.” Permitting a person to be charged based on the outcome of the pregnancy could mean requiring people to prove that a miscarriage or a stillbirth was unintentional.
Salon reported that it was Dr. Kelly McGuire who was on call when Patel came to the emergency room of St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. Dr. McGuire is listed as pro-life through his affiliation with American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Not only did he call the police, he accompanied them in the search for Patel’s stillborn fetus. He is the one who proclaimed that it had been a live birth. Later, during the trial, Shaku Teas, the pathologist who testified for the defense, determined that the baby was stillborn, telling the court that the fetus’ lungs weren’t developed enough to breathe. But the pathologist for the prosecution, Joseph Prahlow, testified that the fetus was born alive. News reports from the trial described Prahlow’s use of the “lung float test” to make this determination. Yet this 17th century test is widely discredited.
“The lung float test was disproven over 100 years ago as an indicator for live birth,” Gregory J. Davis, assistant state medical examiner for Kentucky and a professor of pathology and lab medicine at the University of Kentucky, told the New York Times. “It’s just not valid.”
Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, says that knowing what happened to Patel may cause other women experiencing a miscarriage to fear going to the hospital for care, particularly if they are immigrants.
“Immigrant women already face barriers in accessing healthcare,” Yeung told Salon. “Unfortunately the actions of this doctor have created further misinformation for immigrant women, particularly pregnant women of color, who may now be more hesitant to access emergency healthcare.”
“When Donald Trump said pregnant people should face some kind of criminal penalty for having abortions, people were falling over themselves to distance themselves from that opinion,” Diaz-Tello said. “Well, here’s a case where that is precisely what happened.”
Also, last Tuesday, the state of Oklahoma passed a bill that would revoke the medical license from a doctor who performed an abortion for any reason than to save the mother’s life. It would then send them to prison for up to three years. Senate Bill 1552 defines abortion as “unprofessional conduct” on par with writing false prescriptions and having sex with patients. SB 1552 provides no exceptions for doctors that perform abortions in the case of rape or incest.
“No matter how far along she actually was in pregnancy, or whether the pills she was alleged to have taken had anything to do with the outcome of the pregnancy,” said Diaz-Tello, “to permit criminal charges based on a pregnancy outcome has huge ramifications for everyone who can become pregnant.”
Miriam Yeung, meanwhile, lays out a terrifying scenario, reported Salon: “This could mean prosecution could be brought for any action or inaction by a pregnant person, whether for a self-induced abortion, an accidental fall down the stairs, or a miscarriage. They all may all lead to criminalizing pregnancy.”
Writing jointly in the Huffington Post last month, Shivana Jorawar, a reproductive health and justice policy advocate and a board member of Jahajee Sisters, a New York based organization empowering Indo-Caribbean women, and Deepa Iyer, author of We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Nation and the former director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), pointed out similar cases like that of Patel, that of Nausheen Rahman and Sharon Seudat that have occurred since Patel was imprisoned.
In Staten Island, New York, Rahman went to a hospital seeking care for vaginal bleeding after giving birth to a baby girl at home. She was reported to police by hospital staff after they noticed there was no birth certificate on file. After police found the baby, who was not alive, Rahman was charged with second degree murder. On the day of Rahman’s indictment, Sharon Seudat was arrested in Long Island after experiencing profuse bleeding and seeking emergency care. After Seudat was hospitalized, a doctor determined she had given birth. Authorities investigated Seudat’s home and found the infant’s body. Seudat has been charged with second degree murder and is being held on a $1 million dollar bond.
“Though the full details of these cases have yet to be made public, they are disturbingly similar to Purvi Patel’s story. And, they raise questions about whether South Asian women in particular are being scrutinized. Given the prosecutions of Rahman and Seudat in the year since Patel’s case began, (and five years since a Chinese American woman, Bei-Bei Shuai, was prosecuted under the same Indiana feticide law), it is not a far stretch to wonder whether these stories are part of a pattern of efforts to curb the reproductive rights of Asian American women,” they wrote in the Huffington Post.
“Is it perhaps easier for prosecutors to prove to a jury that Asian American women must have intended to harm their babies given the cultural (mis)perceptions of sex and pregnancy in Asian American families? Asian families are often thought of as particularly intolerant and unforgiving of sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. The circumstances of these cases appear to show a reliance on supposed cultural norms and practices as evidence of criminality—which should raise red flags about the ways in which racial stereotypes are used to curtail women’s bodily autonomy and power.”
They also noted that these cases are part of a broader national pattern where, in eight states, there are sex-selective abortion bans that exploit the notion that Asian American women are likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant with a female in order to “select” for sons. In Indiana, the sex-selective abortion ban became law as part of a larger package of restrictions. At the national level, Congress is debating a similar law this week.
“As Patel waits in prison for the appeal process to begin, we must continue to shine more light on the injustice she endures, as well as what it could be spawning around the nation” wrote Jorawar and Iyer.]]>
Sexual assault and ignorance of health topics are problems among local college students, researchers said Tuesday at St. Cloud Public Library.
About 40 percent of more than 1,100 respondents to a fall 2015 survey of undergraduate women at St. Cloud State University said they had experienced sexual assault in their lives. The same amount said they had never been tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea.
For a decade, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum has been surveying undergraduate women on sex-related subjects in Minnesota. NAPAWF Research Assistant Hedy Tripp organized a presentation and discussions surrounding the topics and survey results Tuesday.
The fall survey, which had a 22 percent response rate, showed:
Tripp’s presentation said sharing the data is important for recognizing and addressing unwanted activities, along with developing healthy relationships and other reasons.
The adjunct professor at St. Cloud State suggested students educate themselves, attend events and respond to friends who disclose assault, among other actions.
After the presentation, Melissa Kwon said Asian-American communities don’t often discuss sex-related topics.
“It’s not something that comes up,” said the NAPAWF research coordinator and University of Minnesota-Twin Cities professor.
Kwon said understanding preventative medicine is a particular challenge in Minnesota cultures, as more than half of Asian-American and Pacific Islander residents in the state are from southeast Asia. Many are Hmong, she said, and many are refugees. Dealing with psychological trauma or providing clothes and food for families can take priority over scheduling Pap tests, Kwon said.
She said NAPAWF’s survey work is vital to addressing problems, as without separated data for Asian-American communities, certain facts would be unknown. She gave an example of cervical cancer rates being much higher for Vietnamese women versus other populations.
Kwon also said offering culturally specific health services to students is necessary. The researcher said she and Tripp are pushing for this at their respective schools.
The Minnesota Young Women’s Collaborative, an NAPAWF project, coordinated the surveys in St. Cloud and at the U of M. They were part of classes centered around health and sexuality in AAPI communities.
Kwon said the classes helped make discussing the topics more acceptable for some students. Breaking the taboo is important, she said, as many Asian-American women don’t even know if they’ve been sexually assaulted.
The St. Cloud State survey defined sexual assault as being pressured, forced or frightened into an unwanted sexual act.
The Minnesota Department of Health helped fund the Tuesday event through its Office of Minority and Multicultural Health.
The survey at St. Cloud State included a list of resources. Those and others in the area are available through these links and phone numbers:
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.]]>
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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.”]]>