South Dakota is dealing with a bevy of anti-choice bills this legislative session. One of the more preposterous bills is HB 1162, An Act to Prohibit the Practice of Sex-Selective Abortions. The bill is being touted as a women's rights bill, but, of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. The "urgent need" for the bill is premised on the misconception that some women's sole purpose for seeking an abortion is to abort their female fetus. The racism involved in this assumption is not veiled. The "urgent need" for the bill is based on the stereotype that Asian and Asian-American women living in the US engage in the same selection practices that are reported in India and China. When expressing his concern about sex-selective abortions, Don Haggar (who voted in favor of the bill) stated: "Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was. There are cultures that look at 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." Representative Stace Nelson (also in favor of the bill) recalled his time in Asia as a Marine to advocate for the necessity of this bill: "Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia...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." You can listen to the hearing here.
Of course, this bill does not solve the problem of gender or race discrimination in any way. How can a bill that is steeped in racist, xenophobic, and misogynist rhetoric favor women of color? It’s clear what this bill is really about – it is about restricting a woman’s access to abortion care. It turns doctors into investigators and patients into suspects, encouraging doctors to monitor the reasons why a woman seeks an abortion. It fosters suspicion and promotes harmful stereotypes. The ACLU of Arizona is currently challenging Arizona's version of a similar ban. You can read about the case here.
HB 1162 passed the house two weeks ago. Today, it cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by a vote of 5-2. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote.
There’s apparently no shortage of attempts to restrict reproductive rights in South Dakota. On Thursday of this week, the House Health and Human Services Committee is set hear HB 1241, a bill that has the potential to imprison doctors who perform abortion procedures.