On March 17, Oakland became the second city, after San Francisco, to pass a ban on sex-selective abortion bans. This is a huge victory for women, and in particular Asian American women. But why? What is a sex selective abortion ban?
Sex-selective abortion bans are an attempt by Republicans lawmakers to take away abortion rights. This time they are doing it using deceptive stereotypes of Asian American women. Much of the language around these bans indicates that Asian Americans do not value the lives of daughters. Their "evidence" is the high rate of female infanticide in Asia... because, you know, the situations of Asians abroad and Asians here in the U.S. are clearly the same. In an attempt to undermine abortion rights, they are exploiting a real women's rights issue abroad and putting Asian American women in harm's way -- all under the deceptive guise of equality. Oh, the irony.
Yet despite the intention to limit all women's reproductive rights, this logic is working. These Republican lawmakers are playing on the racist and anti-immigrant fears of Americans. Since 2010, it has passed in five states including Arizona and North Carolina, which have some of the fastest-growing Asian populations.
Lawmakers who support sex selective abortion bans are trying to create a narrative that female infanticide is an Asian American issue, and they are protecting Asian daughters. This story has proved compelling to those who are inclined to stereotype Asian Americans and other people of color. It has also shown to be confusing and convoluted for others who may actually want to protect women's rights. But let's break it down once again. These laws are the embodiment of conservative manipulation and mind games, and here's why:
1.) They lack evidence. Studies have shown that Indian, Chinese, and Korean American women are actually having more baby girls than White Americans. In fact, I'm here today to write this blog post, because I come from South Asian parents who wanted to have daughters, and were successful. Furthermore, I always felt that even my grandparents favored my sister and I, over our older male cousins not in-spite of the fact that we were girls, but because of it. It's therefore both statistics and anecdotes like mine, that show Asian Americans want and have daughters.
2.) They are racist. While sex-selection is a problem abroad, it is a global issue. It does not just occur in Asian countries, or countries that are predominantly people of color. In fact the countries with the highest male-biased sex ratios are Armenia and Liechtenstein. Since White immigration no longer seems to be a top fear for conservatives, harmful caricatures of Asian women were chosen over Armenians and Liechtensteiners.
3.) They are patriarchal. The lawmakers don't actually want to protect women's rights. It does not enhance a woman's life to decrease her access to abortion and create barriers in her ability to receive proper healthcare. Feminism is not taking away women's rights. Last I heard that's actually called patriarchy. All the people who have proposed these laws have opposed abortions generally (no surprise), and that is the real motivation behind these laws.
I'm proud to live in a city that has pro-actively passed a resolution banning sex selective abortion bans, and hope more cities pass similar resolutions. Conservative lawmakers need to stop pretending to fear that Asian American women have exported ugly abortion practices to the U.S.A, and enjoy the many ways we have enriched American culture instead. My recommendation is to begin with the food.
Avani Mody is from the Bay Area, California. She is passionate about racial justice and disrupting the dominant and colonial narrative on brown women.