House Considers “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” I.e. the We-Don’t-Trust-Women-Of-Color Act

I’m writing today to ask my fellow women of color reproductive justice activists and our allies to take a united stand against the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), a race- and sex-specific anti-abortion bill that went before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution today. I cannot repeat enough times the urgency of moving quickly to act in solidarity.

This is a federal version of legislation that a coalition of women-of-color organizations defeated at the local level in Georgia. It attempts to restrict women of color’s access to abortion and prenatal care in the name of “civil rights.” This bill seeks to protect “unborn Americans” by banning race- and sex-selection abortions. However, the argument that fetuses must be protected from the women of color relies on racist stereotypes about entire communities:

  • First, that Black women are selfish, irresponsible, and incapable of making reproductive decisions on their own behalf
  • Second, that Asian women mindlessly reproduce “son preference” and bring “dangerous values” into the country.

This is patently untrue. Black and Asian/Pacific Islander women have consistently fought for the right to make their own decisions about if and when they will have children based on the support networks and resources that are available in their communities. This bill attempts to drive another wedge between women and their reproductive health practitioners. It will exacerbate many of the existing structural barriers that we women of color must overcome in order to access reproductive healthcare. It will put pressure on abortion-care providers to conduct racial profiling on us, requiring them to secondguess our motivations in seeking abortions. It will do nothing to address the entrenched disparities that low-income women of color must navigate every day in seeking reproductive care. It will not contribute to grassroots-level change in Asian communities where we are already working to address the sexist roots of son preference.

This bill has been put forward by members of Congress who consistently vote to decimate funding for reproductive health services and family support programs. This bill is backed by the same anti-abortion group that put out racist billboard campaigns targeting Black communities.

This bill would result in increased scrutiny of the reproductive decision-making of Black, Latina, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. It is an affront our rights to privacy, to bodily autonomy, and to mobilize in concert to create change and solidarity in our communities—based on our priorities and experiences, our visions for the future and our agency.

Click here to contact your Congressperson to tell them that you strongly oppose this racist and anti-woman legislation.

My thanks for the information and advocacy of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Trust Black Women, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the grassroots activism of SisterSong NYC, as well as those unidentified warriors whose words and wisdom I am drawing on for this post.

Excerpted with permission from The Abortion Gang.

Comments

  1. Christina Fitzpatrick says:

    My letter to Rep. John Runyan, NJ:

    Representative Runyan,

    I am contacting you today regarding the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. At first, I was quite taken aback that an act of this nature would make it to the House for consideration, but now I’m just incensed. Not only does it violate my belief that women deserve to choose their own reproductive destinies; it is base, vile and unapologetically racist. It implies that non-Caucasian women are too selfish and ignorant to make their own decisions regarding their sexual health. I am imploring you to vote no on this act and uphold freedoms for all women. Thank you.

  2. Donna Austin says:

    What kind of crap is this? Who could actually bring this to our politions for consideration!? Never in my life have I heard more ridiculous mess than this!

  3. I’m really bad at writing these letters to congress people. Does anyone have a sample one I can steal?

  4. I refuse to contact my Congressperson to tell her I’m either in favor or opposed to a bill whose original text I haven’t read. So if you expend the effort to compose an article railing against a particular bill, why not at least include a link to the bill itself? Because if you don’t, I must assume that the text of the bill itself may not quite match your characterization of it.

    • You are correct in your assessment. I’m guessing the author (and readers) have not read this bill.

      Fact is, this bill is preventing mothers from aborting a fetus because it’s an undesirable gender or race. Don’t want a baby boy? Aborted! Baby is mixed race and unwanted? ABORTED! I’m all for women having a choice in the matter, but there should be a conversation as to the limits.

      • No there shouldn’t, unless that conversation is between a woman and her healthcare provider. It is a private affair, period. No congressman, citizen or anyone has any say whatsoever in what any woman does with her body and its contents.

    • While I’m a fan of healthy skepticism and being wary of posts without citations, the author did provide the full name of the bill so it’s easy enough to do a google search… It is bad form to encourage contacting a congressperson (and having a link) without at least having excerpts of the bill or links to it though. I think it’s best to assume the author just forgot the link instead of assuming ulterior motives.

      Here’s a link to the full text of the bill: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.+3

      In reading it, I agree with the author that it appears to be advocating heightened scrutiny and limitations on the reproductive choices of minority women.

      • Kate Middleton says:

        Dr. Day Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Comments PreNDA Hearing:

        I participated in the press conference with Congressman Trent Franks and attended the hearing held later in the afternoon.

        What I found quite interesting was that media totally ignored the fact that I participated in the press conference representing thousands of blacks who also support PreNDA.

        What I also found interesting were the remarks made by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) at the hearing.

        Rep. Conyers seemed to have one main problem with the bill—it’s name. He insisted that he studied Frederick Douglass more than Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) which I thought was quite amusing and yet terribly insulting. How could he possibly know to what extent any of us, including Rep. Franks, studied Frederick Douglass? He then stated that he had never heard or read Frederick Douglass saying anything about prenatal nondiscrimination. If I were standing, I would have had to sit down for that one.

        Abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ life’s work was eradicating slavery–working to save and enrich the lives of all black people, men , women and children—so that they too, could enjoy that which we all are promised in America–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If you read anything about Frederick Douglass you would know that he never said life and liberty should be only for those who were born already.

        So, with regard to Mr. Conyers, this Frederick Douglass quote comes to mind: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Yes, I am suggesting that Rep. Conyers is a broken man in that he has most certainly forgotten what the “struggle” for civil rights was all about. His very broken soul has bought into the idea that more than anything else—it is age that decides if a man is a human being and deserving of life.

    • K Webster says:

      The bill, HR 3541, can be found at this link, http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas

      In the future, any piece of legislation can be found at thomas.loc.gov

    • Cyberquill,

      A fair point about not posting a hyperlink to the PRENDA bill or HB1155. Here it is:

      http://www1.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/sum/hb1155

  5. Jen Deerinwater says:

    I, once again, feel the need to point out to my fellow feminists their exclusion of their Native sisters. Women of color also includes Native American women. While I agree with the author of this piece I am disheartened to see that she excluded us in her list of ethnic groups. We are still here!

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