Appeals Court Dismisses NAACP & NAPAWF Lawsuit Challenging Arizona’s Racist Anti-Abortion Ban

December 16, 2015


Earlier this year, I named the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) one of my Giving Tuesday Top 5 organizations for their tireless advocacy around racial justice and women’s rights. NAPAWF has been at the forefront of many key issues relevant to the the AANHPI community, chief among them reproductive rights. For years, NAPAWF has engaged in a state-by-state fight to protect our reprodictive rights (which is of particular importance for the AANHPI community) in part by challenging conservative efforts to rollback abortion access with overtly race-baiting bans on abortions if doctors find that the procedure is sought for reasons such as fetal sex. Despite the lack of any evidence that women are seeking such abortions in any significant numbers, these restrictions are passed on the basis of stereotyping of Black, Asian and immigrant parents as immoral and sexist. Further, these racist laws have received scant commentary or criticism from mainstream media or center-aisle Democrats.

Two years ago, NAPAWF joined forces with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a lawsuit challenging one particularly vile and racist abortion ban in Arizona, which is noteworthy for its unusually explicit fear-mongering of Black and Asian women during debate that preceded passage of this as the first bill to ban race-selective abortion in addition to sex-selective abortion.

The groups sued the state on the grounds that the abortion ban is racist and unconstitutional, but their lawsuit was dismissed by the lower courts with the reasoning that neither group had grounds to claim damages. In other words, the courts did not believe that the use of racist stereotyping to whip up fears of women of colour in Arizona to justify passage of an unnecessary and restrictive abortion ban actually hurts women of colour.

Yesterday, NAPAWF, NAACP and ACLU received more devastating news. Their appeal to the 9th Circuit Appeals Court was also dismissed, again on the grounds that racism doesn’t really hurt communities of colour (see NAPAWF executive director Miriam Yeung’s reaction video above).

I’ve got news for the folks in Arizona: racism hurts. Racism hurts a lot.

When State Senator Nancy Barto argues that America must protect itself against other cultures “that values males over females”, she engages in racist stereotyping that hurts immigrant women. When state senators use as examples Chinese and Indian cultures, they engage in racist stereotyping that hurts Asian and Asian American women. When other state senators rationalize passage of the bill by noting the particularly high rates of abortion use in the Black community, they engage in racist stereotyping that hurts Black women. From Huffington Post:

“These laws stem from racist stereotypes that Asian-Americans do not value women and girls and that black and Asian-American women can’t be trusted to make our own reproductive health decisions,” Miriam Yeung, executive director of NAPAWF, told reporters on Wednesday.

When state senators use racism to limit constitutionally protected abortion access, they engage in racist stereotyping that hurts all women.

What’s particularly galling is that this is Arizona, where the fact that racism hurts communities of colour should not be the least bit surprising. This is a state that defied the federal government to institute a policy of racial profiling targeting brown-skinned people; where Mexican American studies were banned as “discriminatory” and “divisive” towards White students (but other ethnic studies programs were left largely untouched); where racial disparities in K-12 education are among the highest in the country; and, where voters passed a measure to ban race-conscious affirmative action.

Racism hurts. In Arizona, racism’s wounds are particularly gaping, and still the state maintains a steadfast grip on the knife.

In her reaction video (above), Yeung says that ACLU lawyers are in the midst of considering their options after yesterday’s devastating dismissal of the civil rights groups’ case against Arizona. However, she urges concerned supporters like us to continue their financial and advocacy support of NAPAWF and other groups. You can speak out on this issue by renewing your tweeting to #RacismHurts in the wake of last week’s Twitterstorm (Storify).

Read More: NAACP and NAPAWF vs. Arizona (Resources and Media Coverage at NAPAWF)

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