Abortion ban based on racist stereotype would worsen health care for women of color in Kentucky.

State Sen. Mike Castlen, R-Owensboro, spoke at a January news conference for the Kentucky legislature’s pro-life caucus. - John Cheves
State Sen. Mike Castlen, R-Owensboro, spoke at a January news conference for the Kentucky legislature’s pro-life caucus. - John Cheves jcheves@herald-leader.com

As an Asian American woman living in Kentucky, I was outraged to discover that anti-choice state legislators have introduced a bill to restrict reproductive health-care access under the guise of nondiscrimination. 

The legislation, House Bill 5, contains what is known as a sex-selective abortion ban, among other types of bans. Sex-selective abortion bans are dangerous to the well-being of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and our agency over our lives, our families, and our communities. 

This attack on our agency is predicated on the false stereotype that AAPI women prefer male babies over female babies; this is untrue. The truth is: Chinese, Korean and Indian American women, on average, actually have more female babies than white women in the U.S., as a 2014 study revealed. The lawmakers who introduced this abortion ban are essentially telling AAPIs in Kentucky: “We don’t trust you, and you deserve to be racially targeted and profiled.”

If Kentucky legislators vote to approve this ban, they are sanctioning racism and racial profiling of AAPI people across the state.

 Instead of ramping up attacks on the AAPI community, our legislators should trust and listen to us and work to provide us the culturally competent and comprehensive health care that we deserve to thrive. AAPI women and other women of color already are not provided with and lack culturally competent, linguistically appropriate care. That is why we have been and continue to be at greater risk when abortion restrictions are enacted, due to the intersecting forms of oppression that we face in our day to day lives.

Sex-selective abortion bans double down on this oppression by sending the dangerous message to AAPI women: “Kentucky does not want you to feel safe.” This type of legislation aims to sanction doctors for their interactions with AAPI women, and further open the door to targeting AAPI women and other women of color for their pregnancy outcomes. 

Make no mistake, this bill will make it harder to communicate with our doctors about our health care. Kentucky would become yet another state where our government is trying to silence and invisibilize us.

The criminalization of AAPI women for their pregnancy outcomes is already happening. Bei Bei Shuai and Purvi Patel, two women who lived in Indiana, which has passed sex-selective abortion ban legislation, were both punished for their pregnancy outcomes in 2011 and 2013. 

As AAPI women, we are already subject to racist and false stereotypes by our health-care providers and are already less likely to receive the care we need. One study found that among all racial groups, AAPIs are the most likely to feel looked down upon by their providers and least likely to perceive their background was understood by their providers.

The introduction of HB 5 is also a sign that Kentucky lawmakers pay legal precedent no mind. Sex-selective abortion ban legislation has already been ruled unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped Kentucky legislators from attempting to take away the agency of AAPI women across the state. 

If HB 5 moves forward, it will demonstrate to us all how little Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls, and the rule of law, matter to our elected officials. Kentucky legislators should not support abortion bans, which stigmatize AAPI women and all women of color.

Valerie Izumi lives in Louisville and is a member of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.