Academic journal article Asian American Policy Review

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: The Impact of Sex-Selective Abortion Bans on Asian American and Pacific Islander Women

Academic journal article Asian American Policy Review

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: The Impact of Sex-Selective Abortion Bans on Asian American and Pacific Islander Women

Article excerpt

Abstract

Increasingly, a type of abortion ban that exploits the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is becoming a trend in the United States. Using racial stereotypes and relying on information from Asian countries, lawmakers are passing laws that criminalize doctors for performing abortions that are based on the sex of the fetus. Sex-selective abortion bans are deceptive and harmful to AAPI women. They purport to end sex-selective abortions and promote womens equality when they do nothing to address the problem of sex selection and in fact undermine womens equality. Further, they put the health of AAPI women at risk and promote the idea that AAPI women and families hold dangerous values.

At this moment, some politicians in the United States are subjecting women across the country to extremist measures that restrict their health and well-being. Increasingly, anti-choice conservatives are including in their arsenal a particularly insidious type of abortion ban that exploits the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and intentionally singles out AAPI women as targets. Since 2009, seven states have enacted the ban and more than sixty of them were introduced at the state and national level. (1) The measure was also the second most-proposed abortion restriction of 2013. Using racial stereotypes, leveraging xenophobia, and relying heavily on information from Asian countries, lawmakers are proposing and passing laws that criminalize doctors for performing abortions that are based on the sex of the fetus. These deceptive sex-selective abortion bans purport to end sex-selective abortions and promote women's equality. In fact, they are ineffective solutions that undermine women's equality and negatively impact AAPI women and the AAPI community in many ways.

This article sheds light on the incidence abortions; the real purpose and strategy behind sex-selective abortion bans; how sex-selective abortion bans harm AAPI women and the AAPI community; and the current legislative landscape, including how AAPI and reproductive health, justice, and rights policy advocates are responding to these bans in state and federal legislatures and in the courts.

Sex-Selection Occurrences at Home and Abroad

Son preference and the sex-selective practices that can arise from it are devastating realities, especially in China and India where cultural practices and social norms dictate a stronger worth for sons than daughters. The number of girl; missing in Asian countries like India and China due to infanticide, sex selection, or being neglected to death is estimated to be more than 160 million. (2) This is undeniably one of the worst repercussions of gender inequality women and girls in the world are experiencing today. As a result of gender inequities in these countries--including the elevated status of men, the ability of sons to carry on the family name and perform certain rituals, men's ability to contribute more to family income, and traditions that require sons to care for aging parents--the number of women and girls in some regions of the world are dwindling in what some have coined a "gendercide."

Relying on U.S. Census data, some politicians are now claiming that Asian Americans are practicing sex-selective abortion. However, to date, there is no conclusive evidence that sex selection is happening in the United States. Two studies confirm the existence of skewed sex ratios at birth in Indian American, Chinese American, and Korean American populations in the United States. (3) Among these Asian American populations, although the sex ratio for the oldest child is normal, it is male-biased for later births in families with older girls. (4) The reasons for the imbalance are inconclusive. Indeed, there may be selection happening through pre-implantation technologies, and it is possible families are not engaging in sex selection at all. Instead, they may be practicing family balancing to ensure they have an equal, or close to equal, number of girls and boys. …

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