Philadelphia’s mayoral race is heating up, and Asian American community activists are deeply invested in the fight to be the city’s next political leader. Pennsylvania has been a crucial swing state for recent presidential and congressional elections, and politics in Pennsylvania are increasingly influenced by its growing Asian American electorate, which has doubled since 2016. Although still only 2 percent of Pennsylvania’s voters, Asian Americans are increasingly commanding attention, and organizers assert that their recent 70-80% support for Democratic candidates has proven crucial in hotly-contested political races.
This year, many of Pennsylvania’s progressive Asian American activists – including many who previously worked on campaigns for President Joe Biden and Senator John Fetterman – have turned their attention local. They are throwing their support behind Korean American progressive Helen Gym in Philadelphia’s mayoral race. Twice-elected to the Philadelphia City Council, Gym stepped down last year to announce her candidacy for Philadelphia mayor. She is now a leading candidate in the Democratic mayoral primary, which will be held on Tuesday, May 16 and which usually determines the outcome for mayor in this strongly Democratic city.
Last year, nearly 500 restrictions on abortion and reproductive choice were proposed at the state level nation-wide. Among those abortion restrictions were bans on sex-selective abortion; bans that have now passed in eight states — Arizona, Illinois, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Kansas and North Carolina.
Advanced by Republican pro-life legislators, the ban on sex-selective abortions cite concerns that appear superficially feminist: to protect the “unborn” from gender discrimination prior to birth. Further, these bans are based on the assertion that male-biased birth ratios are evidence of sex-selective abortion; that these male-biased birth ratios are only found in India and China; that these male-biased birth ratios are evidence of sex-selective abortion occurring in the United States; that the growing influx of Asian women immigrants from India and China means sex-selective abortion is occurring here; and that the U.S. is one of the few remaining countries in the world that has yet to ban sex-selective abortion. As I wrote about last year, these are the kinds of arguments that are being expressed on the floor of state legislatures, and they are succeeding in restricting reproductive rights for women living in those states.
Yet, closer examination of the arguments of Republican legislators reveals that it is predominantly unfounded and wholly racist anti-Asian stereotypes — not facts — that serve as the principle justification for these recent restrictions on sex-selective abortions.