“PRENDA the Pretenda:” H.R. 3541 Is An Attack on Asian American Women, and We Know It

VIDEO: Miriam Yeung: PRENDA “Places Unfair Scrutiny on Women of Color”

Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, testifies from the pro-choice movement on the harmful impact of H.R. 3541 on women’s lives and urges congressional leaders to oppose the bill, also known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act and a race and sex selection abortion ban.

See all our coverage of the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) here and all our coverage of sex selection here.

Before the clock runs out on another Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, anti-choice legislators have decided to send the Asian American community home with a parting gift. This Wednesday, HR 3541, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) will be put to a vote in the House. PRENDA would ban abortions sought based on the sex of a fetus, threaten doctors with up to five years in prison for performing such a procedure, and even require doctors and nurses to report women whom they suspect are seeking an abortion for these reasons. While the bill is cloaked in the language of civil rights for women, this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Rather than lifting the status of women, this bill is nothing more than another hypocritical attempt to ban abortions in this country – this time using Asian women as the excuse.

In my testimony at the subcommittee hearing on this bill in December, I referred to this bill as “PRENDA the pretenda.” The sponsors of this bill are using the guise of “ending discrimination against female babies,” which sounds like a good cause, in order to ban abortion for the very people it pretends to protect: Asian American women. We recognize that this is simply a particularly demeaning way for anti-choice legislators to limit abortion access.

The hypocrisy of the bills sponsors becomes even more clear when we look at their voting records. They have never supported the numerous measures that would improve the living conditions of women and people of color — like the Voting Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.

Let me be clear. Sex selection, particularly in the international context, is a real concern, and skewed sex ratios in India, China, Vietnam, and even the country of Georgia are troubling. Domestically in the United States, we are not confronted by the same skewed sex ratios. However, we are well aware that gender inequality in the United States does exist, and that for some families, the desire to have a son – particularly in families who already have two or more daughters is very strong. NAPAWF, and our friends in the Asian American community are working hard to address the gender inequity in this country that contributes to son preference. But rather than truly addressing gender inequity, this bill, PRENDA the pretenda’ discriminates against our community.

Numerous international agencies have firmly stated that abortion bans are not a viable solution to the problem of sex selection. Not only have bans been unsuccessful in other countries, but they also would violate the human rights of women. Instead, governments should help alleviate the root cause of son preference and sex selection — gender inequity. It is because of gender inequity that some women feel pressured to have sons. This is especially true in countries where men are the breadwinners and legal inheritors of property. However, there are effective strategies available: in South Korea, skewed sex ratios at birth began to level out as the country developed economically, property laws were changed, and a “Love Your Daughter” media campaign was launched.

Asian American women’s organizations are already doing the work to raise the status of women in the United States. We work hard every day to end domestic violence and sexual assault, build women’s economic power, and eradicate gender stereotyping. If H.R.3541 sponsors truly wanted to help women, they would start by following our lead, not by enacting a paternalistic and misguided law that would do more harm than good.

Asian American women already face grave health disparities and barriers to health access. Nearly 18 percent of Asian Americans and 24 percent of Native Hawaiians are uninsured while only 12 percent of the non-Hispanic, non-elderly white population is without insurance. Over 29 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islander women have not had a mammogram for the past two years, and over 24 percent have not had a Pap Test in three years. We do not need another obstacle. This bill exacerbates disparities by further restricting access to comprehensive health care services and penalizing health care providers who serve women from our community.

H.R. 3541 is an attack on women in our community and we are speaking out. We will not be used as a weapon in the war on women.

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  • ajdallas44

    How don’t get it. What, SPECIFICALLY, is wrong with THIS bill? Don’t obfuscate with all the reasons you don’t like some of the sponsors. What specific harm would this do to Asian women? Even if it only stops a few thousand gender-selected abortions, isn’t that better than nothing?

    Sure, maybe there are other things that could be done to stop gender-specific abortion. But there’s certainly no harm in this bill.

  • jennifer-starr

    a) gender-selection abortion, in this country, is not a very big issue at all. Just because Lila Rose cooked up a fake scenario in her lurid imagination and did an ‘expose’ does not mean that it’s something that happens frequently in the US. It doesn’t.


    b) Gender usually can’t be detected until the second trimester–between about 16 and 20 weeks–and over 90% of abortions in this country happen well before that time. 




    c) I’d be delighted to know how you would possibly enforce this and determine this as the reason for the abortion. Ask them?  Unless you’ve developed telepathic powers or you plan to hook them up to a polygraph, all they’d have to do is answer ‘no’ and you’d be hard-pressed to prove otherwise. Or if you just plan to profile and look more closely at any Asian  woman who requests and abortion–which would be racist–which I believe is the point that the article is making.


    d) The bill would’ve apparently given ‘interested’ third parties the right to contest the woman’s abortion and say this is the reason she is having it.  Which would be an invasion of medical privacy, because as far as I’m concerned, while the woman is pregnant,  she is the only interested party.



  • ack

    This is yet another hurdle to jump when obtaining an abortion, and it’s regulating providers’ speech. There is NO research or valid documentation of a problem with sex or race selective abortions in the US. It’s a solution looking for a problem, and if these white dudes sans uterus are so concerned about taxpayer dollars, they should focus on something else.


    This means that women will have to attest that they’re NOT terminating a pregnancy based on race or sex, on top of laws mandating that they disclose why they’re actually terminating. It adds a level of fear to providers, who could be fined, lose their licenses, or go to jail for failing to force a woman to sign an affadavit. It adds a level of fear to women of color.


    I think we all know that race and sex selective abortions are hard to defend. But this isn’t the answer. The answer is ensuring that disadvantaged women in general, and women of color in particular, have the supports they need to improve their lives.

  • crowepps

    I don’t find race and sex selection abortions hard to defend at all — when the consensus is that the a certain race or gender has no value, and make their lives unbearable so that women feel their children shouldn’t even be born, it isn’t those who have lost hope that are the problem; the place where correction is needed is among those who consider their own race or gender superior, and that “people like that” have little value.