GOP’s Selective Abortion Bill Targeted Asian-Americans, Perpetuated Racial Stereotypes

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)

A bill that bans sex-selective abortions — the practice of aborting a fetus based on gender discrimination — failed in the House on Thursday. The measure, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act or PRENDA would have required a doctor to deny abortions to patients who they suspected of engaging in gender discrimination and and further eroded women’s access to abortion services.

As a result, most Democrats voted against the effort, creating an opening for Republicans to claim that lawmakers who have spent months accusing them of waging a war on women, are themselves engaged in a war against little girls. As Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill’s sponsor, and his conservative allies put it:

[Franks] characterized the the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) as a bill necessary to prevent ”the ultimate violence against women,” a nod to the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act in the House. […]

Franks drew parallels between sex-selection abortion in the United States and the forced abortions in China and India. Rep. Chris Smith (R-CT), who was one of several Republicans at Thursday’s briefing, called sex-selection abortion on females, “the real war on women,” a reaction to women’s groups and Democrats’ accusations that Republicans have declared a “war on women.” Smith also deemed sex-selection abortion as “population control.”

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Nearly 92 percent of all abortions take place before the gender of the fetus can be identified and under the bill, “only 1.5 percent of pregnancy terminations would occur at a time when sex selection was even possible,” while doctors would have had to become detectives in order to sniff out the “true” motives of their patients.

The measure placed additional burdens on Asian American women, who come from communities that have culturally valued boys more than girls. But rather than reducing instances of sex discrimination that lead to a preference for boys, the bill only perpetuated stereotypes about sex selection and did nothing to expand equality for women in the law. “If Representative Franks wants to be a friend to the Asian American women’s community, we would welcome him to partner with us on any number of initiatives we’ve taken that really lift up the status of women and girls in our community,” Miriam W. Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum told ThinkProgress, noting that none of these sponsors have supported PRENDA backed VAWA, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, or Health Equity and Accountability Act.

Indeed, Franks’ assumptions — he claimed that “sex selection is demonstrably increasing here in the United States, especially but not exclusively in the Asian immigrant community”– already seem premised on the idea that Asian American women are somehow victims instead of autonomous, thinking people who make decisions about their own reproductive health. And that perception fits well with the GOP’s anti-women voting record.


Rep. Franks has released a statement about today’s vote:

I am confident that this is not the end, but merely the opening salvo in ensuring the words, ‘It’s a girl,’ are no longer a death sentence for so many unborn girls….[T]he same Democrats who are so frequently heralded as ‘progressives’ today refused to make the United States the very last civilized nation on Earth to outlaw aborting a little girl simply for being a little girl, even as the human family on Earth is today missing 200 million baby girls, thanks to the grisly practice the majority of my colleagues across the aisle couldn’t find it in their hearts to condemn.

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