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Racial stereotypes

Asian American women’s reproductive rights are being targeted, says advocate

By WITW Staff on November 5, 2015

Asian American women are being targeted by anti-abortion activists, argues Miriam Yeung of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. Citing the cases of Purvi Patel — currently serving a 20-year sentence for fetal homicide in an Indiana prison — and Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant who was also charged under Indiana’s feticide law when an attempted suicide resulted in the loss of her pregnancy, Yeung writes, “Asian American women’s reproductive rights are being challenged and their family-planning decisions are being policed based on racial stereotypes held by anti-choice activists and officials.”

That Asian residents make up only two percent of Indiana’s population, yet the only two women prosecuted under Indiana’s feticide law are of Asian descent is no coincidence, writes Yeung.

Yeung says that stories of infanticide in India and gender-selective abortions in China are skewing courtroom decisions in the U.S. and influencing legislation. The fetal homicide laws, on the books in 38 U.S. states, were originally passed to protect pregnant victims of violent crime, but may end up exposing women to criminal liability, depending on how an attempt to terminate a pregnancy is interpreted. If Patel’s conviction is upheld on appeal, it could set that precedent.

Cultural misinformation has also been employed to successfully argue for sex-selective abortion laws in eight states, and bring them up for consideration in at least 21, she adds. In truth, Asian Americans have more girls on average than white Americans, according to a recent study by the University of Chicago School of Law. Nevertheless, sex-selective abortion laws were the second most-proposed abortion ban in 2013 and 2014.

“Feticide laws, sex-selective abortion bans and similar legislation … are simply efforts to limit abortion rights through laws falsely touted as protecting women and families,” writes Yeung. “Instead of criminalizing Asian American and immigrant women with these onerous laws, states should be creating culturally sensitive resources that help them safely exercise their reproductive rights and access quality mental-health care.”

Purvi Patel’s case demonstrates these laws are a threat to all women, warns Yeung: “Now, we all are at risk of having an abortion, miscarriage or premature birth turn into a life behind bars.”

Read the full story at the The Washington Post.

Indiana woman convicted to 20 years in prison for “feticide”