So the House just voted on a horrifying bill. HR 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA). Luckily, it didn’t pass. Reproductive justice prevailed! Huzzah!! But I’m going to give you background on it anyway.
Now, you might be saying, why are you going to blog about something that didn’t even happen? Because if being a reproductive justice activist has taught me anything, it’s that anti-choicers don’t give up. Just because it didn’t pass the House doesn’t mean an amended version or a Senate bill isn’t lurking around the corner.
After I saw the hideously offensive race-baiting billboards, I knew it was just another in a long line of racist ploys to control and shame people of color. And PRENDA is the latest tactic.
Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), PRENDA would have banned abortions based on the fetus’ sex. Doctors and nurses would be required to report people who they suspect are getting sex-selective abortions. PRENDA would have punished healthcare providers for if they perform abortions based on sex-selection or don’t report their suspicions, they could face 5 years imprisonment.
Now you might be thinking, well sex selection based on gender is a bad thing. And it is. But you know what’s just as horrifying?? Legislating people’s reproductive health, prohibiting access to abortion and stigmatizing people’s reproductive choices.
Miriam Yeung, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, Black Women’s Health Imperative, wrote in Huffington Post what this bullshit discriminatory bill really means:
“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.”
If you have any doubts that this anti-choice bill was merely masquerading as benevolent legislation, look at the voting record of the legislators sponsoring it. As Yeung and Nancy Northup, Center for Reproductive Rights, have pointed out, these legislators have voted against the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act. Oh yeah, that sounds like they really care about gender equity.
Anti-choicers are co-opting gendercide to make you think this legislation protects women. Trust me, it doesn’t. It vilifies abortion providers. It demonizes people, particularly people of color, seeking abortions and places more obstacles in their path to obtaining reproductive healthcare.
Both Sneha Barot, Guttmacher Institute, and Yeung acknowledge that sex selection is a massive problem, including in East Asian and South Asian communities. If you want to understand the “root problem” of sex selection, read this post on sex selection internationally and this post on sex selection in the U.S. But as Yeung writes, using sex selection as justification for this bill is a ruse to attack Asian Americans:
“Let me be clear. Sex selection, particularly in the international context, is a real concern, and skewed sex ratios in India, China, Vietnam, and even the country of Georgia are troubling…gender inequality in the United States does exist, and that for some families, the desire to have a son – particularly in families who already have two or more daughters is very strong…But rather than truly addressing gender inequity, this bill, PRENDA the pretenda’ discriminates against our community.”
Yeung, Gonzalez-Rojas, and Hinton Hoytt say “there are better ways to combat gender bias:”
“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.”
If anti-choice legislators really cared about helping Asian Americans (which clearly they don’t), Yeung argues they would “follow the lead” of Asian American women’s organizations:
“Asian American women’s organizations are already doing the work to raise the status of women in the United States. We work hard every day to end domestic violence and sexual assault, build women’s economic power, and eradicate gender stereotyping. If H.R.3541 sponsors truly wanted to help women, they would start by following our lead, not by enacting a paternalistic and misguided law that would do more harm than good.”
Yeung argues the real impetus for the heinousness of PRENDA:
“While the bill is cloaked in the language of civil rights for women, this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rather than lifting the status of women, this bill is nothing more than another hypocritical attempt to ban abortions in this country – this time using Asian women as the excuse.”
If anti-choice legislators were truly concerned about combating sexism, racism and gender bias, wouldn’t they also support policies that ensure equal pay? Protect reproductive healthcare? Poverty alleviation? Immigration? Sex education? Contraception? The rights of domestic violence and rape survivors?
Nope, they don’t care. What do they care about? Banning abortion and shaming women’s bodies. And they won’t stop until they do. So it’s up to us to not remain silent and to keep speaking out against oppression.
Don’t let anti-choicers determine your healthcare. We need to be vigilant and call out misogynistic, racist, classist, transphobic bullshit.
Everything you need to know about PRENDA, you can find at RH Reality Check.