South Dakota Considers New Abortion Restriction Targeting Asian Immigrants

| by Allison Geller

The South Dakota legislature is considering a bill that would ban “selective-sex” abortions, with lawmakers adding that the legislation would stop Asian immigrants from aborting their daughters.

Mother Jones reports that Wednesday’s South Dakota House session, in which the bill passed 60 to 10, was cloaked in xenophobic commentary about the rising number of Asian immigrants moving to the state.

"Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was," said Rep. Don Haggar, Republican. "There are cultures that look at a sex-selection abortion as being culturally okay. And I will suggest to you that we are embracing individuals from some of those cultures in this country, or in this state. And I think that's a good thing that we invite them to come, but I think it's also important that we send a message that this is a state that values life, regardless of its sex."

Another Republican representative and U.S. Senate candidate, Stace Nelson, supported the bill for the same reason.

"Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia," said Nelson, a former Marine. "And sadly, I can tell you that the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value the lives of my daughters."

The bill would require doctors to ask women seeking abortions if they want to terminate their pregnancy based on the sex of the fetus. If a woman said yes, the doctor would not be able to perform the abortion without risking fines and even prison. Seven states already have sex-selective abortion bans in place, including North Dakota.

"The racism and the stereotypes and the stigma is laid so bare here," Miriam Yeung, the director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, commented to Mother Jones about the bill.

South Dakota is home to some of the toughest abortion policy in the country. Politico reports that while South Dakota voters rejected full abortion bans in 2006 and 2008, policymakers have been campaigning for abortion restrictions that effectively end access to abortion. South Dakota’s laws require women to wait 72 hours after seeing a doctor before they can have an abortion, not including weekends or holidays, and public funding is only available when a pregnancy endangers the mother’s life. Additionally, minors can’t be provided abortions without their parentsbeing notified.

The state has also decided it would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Peggy Gibson, a Democratic representative who voted against the bill, sees the sex-selective abortion ban as just another dressed-up restriction by conservative pro-lifers. "I did not hear the sponsor of the bill give one iota of evidence that a [sex-selective] abortion has taken place in South Dakota," Gibson said. "This bill … is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist."

Sources: Mother Jones, Politico,  Guttmacher Institute