Over the weekend, House Republicans tried to push forward a bill banning late-term sex-selective abortions in Oregon (HB 2588), similar to bills that have passed in seven other states. HB 2588 would require a healthcare provider to refuse to provide an abortion if they think the patient is making a decision based on the sex of the fetus, known as “sex-selective abortion.” Ban supporters frequently like to claim this practice is common in Chinese, Indian and Korean communities. There is no data, however, to suggest that immigrants from these areas, or anywhere else, are obtaining sex-selective abortions in the United States. In fact, according to census data, foreign-born Chinese, Indian and Korean Americans are actually having more girl babies on average than White Americans(1).
Bills like these exploit ugly stereotypes of Asian communities, endanger our access to health care and criminalize those seeking care. Here’s what HB 2588 would really do:
- Create a slippery slope for more restrictions on access to care. A bill like this would set a dangerous precedent for allowing politicians to define “good” and “bad” reasons for seeking an abortion, and could open the door to even more restrictions on access to safe, legal reproductive health care. Ultimately, decisions about when and whether to parent are best made by an individual with their family and their faith, in consultation with their healthcare provider. Bills like these target certain women and communities, undermining their fundamental rights to determine their families.
- Undermine trust in the doctor-patient relationship and risk denial of care. No one should ever be scrutinized and potentially denied care based on their racial or ethnic background. By forcing physicians to interrogate people about their motives for obtaining an abortion, this bill would turn doctors into investigators and patients into suspects. Providers would be forced to question anyone’s reasons for seeking an abortion and second-guess and stigmatize Asian and other immigrant communities, increasing the likelihood that providers would deny them the care and information they need.
- Perpetuate racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric about our communities. During South Dakota’s hearing on a sex-selective abortion ban, one senator claimed it was necessary because “our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was” and another senator cited military experience in Asia as proof that “the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value my daughters”(2). There is no evidence that this is a widespread problem in the US, and these laws passed in other states have made no difference in the gender ratio of girl babies versus boy babies born (3). By using Asian communities to prop up attacks on reproductive health access, politicians are spreading harmful racist characterizations and stoking anti-immigrant sentiments.
Sex-selective abortion bans are a cynical tactic that use concern for women as a way to wedge our communities. Patriarchy and gender oppression need to be addressed in our communities, as they do in so many communities, but restricting reproductive health access and criminalizing women is a false solution. Legislators who peddle these false solutions do not have a track record of protecting women’s health and opportunities. Instead, they’re at the forefront for rolling back access to care, decisions that harm immigrants, transgender people and women of color the most.
Real solutions include enacting policies that empower women economically and socially to promote equity and self-determination. Some great examples from Oregon this legislative session are:
- The Oregon Equal Pay Act (HB 2005)
- The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMLI) Act (HB 3087)
- The Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB 3391)
We at APANO continue to support real solutions for gender justice as we work toward a world where all our families have the social, economic and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, genders, sexualities and families, in all areas of their lives, without fear of exclusion, discrimination or harm.