Reproductive Health Restrictions Hurt Asian-American Women

UPDATE: On March 12, 2014 we appealed the dismissal of our challenge to Arizona’s discriminatory race- and sex-based abortion ban (HB 2443).

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the NAACP of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) challenging a state law that relies on harmful racial stereotypes to shame and discriminate against Black women and Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women who decide to end their pregnancies. A version of the following piece by Zeenat N. Hasan, co-founder of the Arizona chapter of NAPAWF originally ran in Arizona Central on April 3, 2013.

Arizona lawmakers have enacted some of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, from limiting access to health-care providers to restricting medical education.

The sponsors of Arizona's so-called "prenatal nondiscrimination" law justified it based on a xenophobic stereotype that Asian women prefer sons over daughters and will abort based on the sex of the fetus. The law casts any Asian-Pacific-American (APA) woman who decides to have an abortion as a suspect, stigmatizing each and every APA woman who makes the personal and private medical decision to have an abortion.

As an Asian-American woman, I am concerned about the damaging effects of this law on my community. We already face many health risks. Language barriers, economic pressures and cultural taboos toward sex prevent a significant number of Asian-American and Pacific-Islander women from seeking and receiving quality and timely reproductive health services.

Our community also is less likely to use birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and we experience some of the highest rates of breast and other preventable cancers.

More than two-thirds of Asian-Americans in Arizona are foreign born, and Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws have created a chilling effect in the community. Our families need health services but are growing fearful of law enforcement as well as health and human-service providers.

Asian immigrant women struggle with domestic violence, for example, but often do not report the crime because they fear being separated from their children because of their immigration status.

My partner and I have begun to plan a family, but I face growing restrictions on my ability to determine my own reproductive future. Newer laws aimed specifically at women's reproductive-health rights not only deepen health and economic disparities, but harm the most vulnerable women — low-income women and women of color. These regulations infringe on aspects of our lives that are (and should remain) private.

For women like me, it is impossible to disentangle the relationship between reproductive choices and our economic health. Indeed, it often determines whether we live in economic prosperity or disparity.

As our numbers grow in Arizona, Asian Pacific-American women must stake a claim in the political process and work to protect our reproductive rights by voting, organizing and speaking out.

With that in mind, I co-founded the Arizona chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. Our group calls its members "fierce sisters."

The Arizona Legislature may try to tell us we are suspect because we are different, our bodies are not our own and that we don't matter. But listen up, Arizona: Asian-American and Pacific-Islander women and girls are critical to the future of Arizona.

We're fierce. We're sisters. And we do matter.

Learn more about abortion rights and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (8)
Read the Terms of Use


The question I have about this article is why is it that the author stated the people in this area fail to use options that prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg? This sounds like profiling and the answer should create some questions? There should be access to birth control for the people involved and the individuals should be informed about birth control? But this being the case, the author still misses the point and that is if women want more control over their bodies, they do have a choice not to have sex and if that is unacceptable than how else can they have the ultimate control over their bodies????


I would think that if women want control over their bodies than they should show that control! They have the option of birth control; self-control and whatever? I am not stating that women should not have sex or pre-marital sex; but they have the option of having complete control over their bodies and that is the issue presented!




Reproductive rights start before sex, I'm so sick of women talking about abortion as a form of birth control. This is the same philosophy Asian women have in other parts of the world. Abortion IS NOT birth control. There are so many forms of contraceptives that give women real self-control over when they start their family. Perhaps funding should be given to help promote birth control instead of try and keep the status quo.


This was interesting to read. But I also wonder, what about the treatment toward Asian American women, or even women of color, who regularly utilize community health clinics? I have heard of experiences where physicians shame women even when these women are already taking preventative measures (condoms, birth control pills). I don't think it's necessarily only about "controlling yourself and your body" but it's also about how these women are being treated even when they are taking calculative steps.


This was interesting to read. But I also wonder, what about the treatment of Asian American women, or even women of color, when they are already taking preventative steps? I have heard stories from Asian American women about physicians from community health clinics shaming them even though they are already taking calculative measures such as using condoms and birth control pills. I don't think the issue is only about having control over yourself and your body (as some have previously commented about). I think the issue may also include the poor treatment, whether intentional or unintentional, by some physicians and our historical racial hierarchical system. It is obvious we are not living in a post-racial/colorblind society because of the poor treatment toward people of color, especially for women of color, still exists.

Anonymous in Il...

WTF is wrong with these dickheads?! We should be restricting access to vasectomies, and Viagra.... OKAY!??!


I know of a WHITE person who wanted his wife to abort based on the sex of the baby. She DIDN'T want to get an abortion and neither did he until they discovered it was a girl, when he suddenly told her to at 25 weeks pregnant get an abortion so they can have a boy first. And have a girl later.
It's not safe to the mother to get an abortion after 20 weeks and anyway, she DIDN'T want an abortion. He did for what I think of as a stupid reason.

Stay Informed