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Abstract

The last five years have seen an unprecedented number of abortion restrictions proposed and passed in Congress and in state legislatures around the country. While these attacks on a woman’s ability and right to have an abortion have been well-documented in the media and in the reproductive justice movement, little attention has been paid to the fact that the second-most proposed abortion ban in the country is one that specifically targets Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. These so-called “sex-selective abortion bans” exploit a real crisis abroad around son preference to further a domestic political agenda. The language of these bans is written to appear supportive of gender equity, criminalizing the provision of abortion when it is sought based on a preference for the sex of a child. Often accompanied by anti-Asian and anti-immigrant rhetoric, these laws perpetuate a dangerous stereotype about AAPI women in order to harm all women. By attempting to differentiate between “good” and “bad” reasons to have an abortion, sex-selective abortion bans are a slippery slope to even more laws that restrict abortions based on a woman’s reasons for seeking care. Moreover, by forcing health care providers to essentially police and racially profile their own patients, these laws interfere with the trust that is critical for an open and honest doctor-patient relationship. In this Article, we identify and debunk the myths used to justify these deceptive laws and look at the legislative trend of sex-selective abortion bans in the states and in Congress. We conclude with a discussion of constitutional challenges to sex-selective abortion bans in states where they have been enacted and examine the impact these laws will have on reproductive rights and access.

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