Patel’s charges stem from the loss of her fetus under circumstances Patel continues to maintain were an unintended miscarriage — which occurs as often as in approximately 10-20% of pregnancies. Prosecutors, however, argued that Patel had self-induced a chemical abortion. Their evidence? Text messages between Patel and a friend where Patel expressed interest in the purchase in abortion-inducing drugs; yet, there was no concrete evidence showing that Patel ever purchased those drugs, and no drugs were found in her bloodstream at the time of her fetus’ death.
Patel’s case has alarmed women’s rights activists since 2013, because it is symptomatic of how anti-choice activists have misapplied the law and other systems designed to protect women, and instead used them to criminalize pregnant women. Patel was arrested in the death of her fetus after her emergency room doctor called authorities when she was admitted for excessive hemorrhaging, and when he subsequently went out to search for incriminating evidence of an illegal abortion. Patel was charged with feticide using laws originally written with the intention of protecting battered women from physical abuse that leads to the loss of their fetus at the hands of their batterer; that law has been used twice by prosecutors in Indiana to persecute women — and in both cases, those women have been Asian American and/or immigrant women of colour. Patel’s mistreatment by our legal system undermines any possibility of trust between women — and specifically women of colour — and the medical or justice systems in this country.
Portland, Oregon-based Asian American rock band, The Slants, received some disappointing news this week when the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Federal Circuit upheld a US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision that the band’s name could not be trademarked on the grounds that it is being used as a racial slur that a majority of the public would find disparaging. The Federal Circuit court agreed in the majority opinion, citing the Patent Office’s Appeal Board decision where they decided that the name The Slants “would have the ‘likely meaning’ of people of Asian descent but also that such meaning has been so perceived and has prompted significant responses by prospective attendees or hosts of the band’s performances.”
In 1946, the federal government passed the Lanaham Act, the principle legislation that governs the registration of trademarks. Among other stipulations, the Act prohibits the registration of any trademark that “consists of or comprises of immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute”. Federal Circuit courts have previously interpreted this to include racial slurs such as “Heeb”, “Squaw Valley”, and — of course — the “Washington Redskins” (which is currently on appeal).
However, Simon Tam — founder of The Slants who tweets at @SimonTheTam — argued that despite the popular usage of the phrase “slants” as a slur when referencing Asian Americans, the band name was intended to be a subversive reappropriation of an epithet as part of their larger project to “take ownership” of anti-Asian stereotypes.