WASHINGTON — Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on May 31 released statements opposing the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA).
H.R. 3541 was considered in the House of Representatives that day and failed to garner enough votes to pass. All 35 of CAPAC’s House members who voted on the bill opposed it.
The bill imposes civil and criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly attempts to perform a sex-based abortion. The bill also requires healthcare providers to report known or suspected violations to law enforcement, including suspicions about a woman’s motives for seeking an abortion. The bill is broadly opposed by civil rights groups, pro-choice groups, and Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy groups.
PRENDA’s lead sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), has made references to the Asian American community as his justification for the bill. On May 30, he stated on the House floor that “the practice of sex-selection abortion is demonstrably here in the United States, especially but not exclusively in the Asian immigrant community.”
Afterwards, he told The Washington Post, “The real target in the Asian community here is the Asian women who are being coerced into aborting little girls.” Franks also admitted that he had no expectation of passing the bill, and that his primary intention was to force pro-choice Democrats to take an uncomfortable vote.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), CAPAC chair: “Today, there was a victory for women as the so-called Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act was defeated. PRENDA would have made doctors criminally liable if a woman had an abortion in order to choose the sex of her baby. The law put the onus on doctors to know what is in the mind of the woman, and to determine why she’s taking an action regarding her pregnancy. Doctors are not mind-readers, yet they could be thrown in jail for these actions.
“What was the most disturbing about this bill is that it relied on stereotypes about immigrants that have come from other countries, particularly Asian countries. Had the bill passed, such stereotypes would have only caused providers to avoid taking minorities as patients because of the possibility of criminal liability. Asian American and Pacific Islander women already face significant barriers to healthcare. This bill would have limited that access even further.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), CAPAC Healthcare Taskforce chair: “We are all opposed to abortions based on sex selection, but the GOP bill is just another assault on women’s healthcare. The ramifications are real and they are very dangerous. Attempts to restrict or deny access to safe abortions is harmful to women’s health and would ultimately take us back to the days of back-alley abortions. If this bill passes it would forever change the doctor-patient relationship as we know it.
“This bill cynically and disingenuously pretends to address discrimination as a pretext for its true purpose: to enact a criminal ban on abortion and threaten abortion providers with criminal and civil penalties in order to shut them down. I reject this dangerous and discriminatory bill that would limit women’s health care options.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “Yesterday, Rep. Trent Franks took to the House Floor and embarrassed himself by offering up misleading and insensitive remarks about AAPI women and birth rates in this country. Franks’ insulting comments were just another sad chapter in the Republican crusade to attack women and undermine the essential reproductive services they need.
“I have worked throughout my career to safeguard the rights of all women, especially their fundamental reproductive rights. That is why I unequivocally oppose the deceptive and offensive H.R. 3541 … PRENDA purports to advance gender equity by banning sex-selective abortions, but in reality it is a vicious attack on women’s rights and its sponsor is perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
“AAPI women in particular are especially vulnerable to scrutiny and racial stereotyping, given the issue of sex selection in Asian countries. If this bill passes, it will encourage racial profiling in the doctor’s office and AAPI women will have their motives scrutinized by abortion providers. In fear of facing jail time, doctors could subject any woman who appears Asian to questioning and may even deny care.
“Further, this would be the first time a woman’s motives for termination are being questioned — opening the door for all women to be subjected to escalated questioning of their reasons in the future. AAPI women already face disproportionate barriers to quality, comprehensive medical care, and the health disparities that accompany them. They do not need another obstacle. I vote … against PRENDA and this Republican war on women, and will continue to fight for equitable and comprehensive access to healthcare for all women.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), House Democratic Caucus vice chair: “Despite its misleading title, H.R. 3541 would do nothing to address the issue of sex discrimination. By pushing a divisive agenda that attacks women’s access to healthcare services, House Republicans are making their priorities clear. Instead of threatening the relationship between women and their doctors, Congress should be fighting to eliminate sex discrimination by increasing access to reproductive health care services, promoting pay equity and ensuring quality education.”
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “The war on women by this Congress continues unabated. This misnamed Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act is yet another cynical attempt to restrict access to women’s health care. The practice of sex-selective abortion is a serious problem in countries that do not strongly value girls. However, rather than seeking to combat the real reasons for gender discrimination, this bill would encourage racial profiling in the doctor’s office.
“Doctors could refuse to provide healthcare for immigrant or Asian American women who doctors suspect may include sex-selection as one of many factors in choosing to seek an abortion. Medical staff would be required to violate doctor-patient confidentiality and report private conversations to law enforcement, even comments like ‘I hope it’s a boy.’
“We’ve seen an assault on preventive healthcare for women and we continue to see attack after attack on a woman’s right to choose, which is why I opposed this misguided bill.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “This bill does absolutely nothing to address sex discrimination. To the contrary, it is yet another attack on women’s access to healthcare that simultaneously fuels racial stereotypes. It would adversely affect Asian American and Pacific Islander women, who already face disproportionate barriers to healthcare. I would welcome a true debate on how to address sex discrimination by ensuring all women have equal access to things like healthcare services and wages. Unfortunately, this offensive bill does nothing to combat these underlying problems, and just inflames emotions while exacerbating discrimination.”
Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Cerritos): “This misguided bill not only infringes on a woman’s right to choose, but it increases the health disparities that already exist among minority women, erodes the trust that exists between a woman and her doctor, and denies women quality access to healthcare. This bill does nothing to curb discrimination based on race and gender, but rather, imposes additional barriers for women who seek to make informed decisions about their health and criminalizes the doctors who provide care to them.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo): “PRENDA is a not-so-veiled attempt at racial profiling and should be rejected outright. This bill not only makes it harder for some people to access the healthcare they choose, it also criminalizes health care providers for performing a legal procedure. PRENDA is an insult to women of all races and ethnicities.”
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont): “The so-called ‘Prenatal Discrimination Act’ does not prevent discrimination – on the contrary, it contributes to gender inequality by restricting a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion and by criminalizing doctors who provide reproductive health care. If this Congress really wants to eliminate gender bias, then we should be working with communities to provide education about cultural awareness, contraception and family planning. This bill is simply another attempt by conservatives to reverse Roe v. Wade under the guise of civil rights.”