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What PRENDA Would Mean to Women

Posted: 05/29/2012 11:58 am

On Wednesday, May 30, the United States House of Representatives will consider the "Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act." Known as "PRENDA," the latest version of the bill (there have been at least three) would ban abortions performed on the basis of sex. If this bill becomes law, a doctor or nurse who suspects that a patient is seeking a sex-selective abortion would be required to report her to authorities. Doctors who perform such a procedure could face jail time, fines, or lawsuits from a patient or her family.

This bill means that all women -- and to be clear, particularly Asian American women -- who seek an abortion could face new, intense scrutiny. In particular, given the issue of sex selection in Asian countries, any woman who appears to be Asian American risks intense questioning about the decision she has made to seek an abortion. The bill also targets providers and makes it more difficult to provide reproductive health care including abortion.

As organizations representing thousands of women of color, and as women of color ourselves, we work every day to fight sex discrimination and racial stereotyping in all its forms. We fight for policies shown to be effective in improving the lives of women and girls, like improving education, better health care, equal employment opportunities and pay equity.

The supporters of this bill are not our friends on these issues. They are hypocrites: opponents of reproductive decision-making who don't care about sex discrimination. Their agenda is banning all abortions and punishing those who provide them.

We condemn the gender bias that can lead to pressure to have a child of a particular sex. We are working against the root causes of abortion for sex selection including son preference and gender stereotypes. But there are better ways to combat gender bias than taking away a woman's ability to make personal, private medical decisions. Instead we should be working together -- as we are in our own communities -- to decrease gender stereotyping that can lead to strong boy or girl preference.

No woman should ever be scrutinized or interrogated by her doctor, but this is exactly what would happen if this bill becomes law. Given the risks to providers, even the decision to find out the sex of a child during a wanted pregnancy may become suspect.

Women of color have historically suffered from substandard health care, family planning, and education -- all of which contribute to unintended pregnancies, infant and maternal deaths, and other serious health issues. We need to end the historical and ongoing disparities in reproductive health care that harm us all.

Every week anti-choice members of Congress seem to find a new way to demonize and target women. This week's is particularly cynical. At a time when so many people are struggling, PRENDA is an insidious attempt to distract from the real issues at hand. We need solutions that improve health and improve a woman's ability to make the best reproductive health decisions for her circumstances. Further, we need policies that make it easier for a woman of color to raise her family in a safe and healthy environment, so she can continue a pregnancy if she wants to. That is the work that we will continue -- this week and beyond.

Miriam Yeung is executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. Jessica González-Rojas is the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Eleanor Hinton Hoytt is president and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative.

 
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