Collective Statement from South Asian Leaders on Abortion & Reproductive Justice

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — 24 May 2022

The recently leaked draft majority opinion from SCOTUS threatens an alarming reversal of federal protections for abortion rights. Amidst grief and rage, we know — as South Asian survivors, immigrants, community-based organizations, and movement leaders — that we must act swiftly and unitedly to protest and prevent this from passing.

Build­ing upon decades-long attacks on repro­duc­tive jus­tice, the pend­ing deci­sion to over­turn Roe v Wade could gut abor­tion rights in near­ly half of the Unit­ed States. Unde­ni­ably, this would have a dev­as­tat­ing impact on South Asian fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties — espe­cial­ly on sur­vivors, immi­grants, queer and trans peo­ple, and work­ing class peo­ple.

“Abortion restrictions in this country have always targeted, and fall hardest on, people of color and low-income people. They are meant to keep people like us powerless and in our place. Abortion bans are racial violence. They are gender-based violence. Abortion bans are class warfare.” - Shiv­ana Jorawar, Esq., Co-Direc­tor, Jaha­jee Sis­ters

In the face of these unprece­dent­ed restric­tions, it is imper­a­tive that we push for bold solu­tions that ensure afford­able and acces­si­ble abor­tions for every­one. With­out the right to abor­tion, the health and well-being of preg­nant peo­ple, entire fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, and future gen­er­a­tions are at risk.

In con­trast to mod­el minor­i­ty stereo­types, South Asians face per­va­sive sys­temic bar­ri­ers includ­ing eco­nom­ic, legal, lan­guage, and cul­tur­al hur­dles to access­ing repro­duc­tive health­care. Though there is a dearth of data on abor­tion rates among South Asians, a recent study found that Indi­an Amer­i­can women in New York City have the high­est rate of abor­tion amongst Asian Amer­i­cans.

“South Asians are especially vulnerable - without access to resources in the multitudes of languages we speak, and the shame and stigma that comes with accessing reproductive health care, we are marginalized further without policies that support people’s whole lives, including better access to hospitals and clinics, healthcare provided by people our communities trust, insurance that actually covers our real needs, and policies that eliminate barriers to care because of racism and inequities.” - Sharmin Hos­sain, Cam­paign Direc­tor, Lib­er­ate Abor­tion

In 2012, Savi­ta Halap­panavar, a South Asian den­tist liv­ing in Ire­land, trag­i­cal­ly died after being denied a time­ly abor­tion. In 2014, Purvi Patel, a South Asian woman from Indi­ana, was one of only two women to be pros­e­cut­ed under the statewide feti­cide bill. Her case demon­strates the vio­lent hypocrisy of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, which has a well doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of forced ster­il­iza­tions of women of col­or, par­tic­u­lar­ly Black women, while at the same time crim­i­nal­iz­ing abor­tion, as demon­strat­ed through racist sex-selec­tive abor­tion bans. If those in pow­er were to pri­or­i­tize well-being, they would address the short­age of baby for­mu­la, lack of paid fam­i­ly leave, denial of access to health­care, and the short­age of afford­able and free child­care in this coun­try.

“This moment is painstakingly triggering for survivors who are all too familiar with stolen consent and the violation of bodily autonomy. The fight for reproductive justice and survivor justice are intricately interconnected as both are working to advance a world abundant with care, resources, and choices.” - Denise Beek, Chief Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer, me too. Inter­na­tion­al

For South Asian sur­vivors who live at the inter­sec­tion of mul­ti­ple oppres­sions, the con­se­quences will be even more grave. Peo­ple in abu­sive rela­tion­ships are far more vul­ner­a­ble to sex­u­al assault, birth con­trol sab­o­tage, repro­duc­tive coer­cion or con­trol, and mis­in­for­ma­tion about their repro­duc­tive rights, and homi­cide, fre­quent­ly by a part­ner, is the lead­ing cause of mater­nal death dur­ing preg­nan­cy and the post­par­tum peri­od.

"As organizations in the southern states, we face some of the toughest abortion restriction policies. This rollback of rights is extremely concerning because it threatens the livelihoods for survivors and people who already have limited access to resources, transportation, and healthcare." - Aparna Bhat­tacharyya, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Rak­sha and SOAR Board Mem­ber

With­in South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, the pre­vail­ing stig­ma, shame, and silence that hin­der dis­cus­sions of sex­u­al and repro­duc­tive health are iso­lat­ing and dan­ger­ous. Unless we nor­mal­ize our choic­es and needs, we are jeop­ar­diz­ing the phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al health and safe­ty of South Asians.

As we mobi­lize in the com­ing weeks and months, we look to the South Asian, Indo-Caribbean, Black, Brown, Lat­inx, Indige­nous, and Asian lead­ers at the fore­front of the repro­duc­tive jus­tice move­ment. Across the South Asian & Indo-Caribbean dias­po­ra, HEART to Grow is sus­tain­ing a repro­duc­tive jus­tice fund for Mus­lims, Jaha­jee Sis­ters is lead­ing actions and host­ing con­ver­sa­tions on abor­tion access, and Sakhi for South Asian Women and oth­er gen­der-based vio­lence orga­ni­za­tions are increas­ing access to con­tra­cep­tion for sur­vivors.

“Make no mistake -- banning abortion does not end the need for abortion care. Abortion is normal, common and one of the safest medical procedures. Banning abortion will not only have devastating effects on women, pregnant people and their whole families but it will have the greatest impact on low-income people of color. As a movement, we are prepared for what's to come and I'm proud to say that we are stronger than ever. We won't give up.” - Dr. Meera Shah, Chief Med­ical Offi­cer of Planned Par­ent­hood Hud­son Pecon­ic, Med­ical Direc­tor of Whole Women’s Health Alliance of South Bend, Indi­ana, and Sakhi Board Mem­ber

This is not only a fight to save Roe v. Wade, but also a pivotal moment to reimagine the future of reproductive justice and freedom for all. We must act to ensure that abortion is legal, accessible, affordable, and supported for everyone regardless of income, race, gender, sexuality, caste, religion, and more.

The solidarity and voices of South Asians are needed, now more than ever, to take action, speak out, donate, and to protect choice and freedom for ourselves and the generations to come.

Organizational & Individual Signatories

  • AFSSA (Texas)
  • Ashiyanaa (Mary­land)
  • Daya (Texas)
  • Jahajee Sisters (New York)
  • Raksha Inc. (Geor­gia)
  • Sakhi for South Asian Women (New York)
  • Sanctuary for Families (New York)
  • SEWA-AIFW (Min­neso­ta)
  • South Asian SOAR (Nation­al)
  • Manavi (New Jer­sey)

SAALT Mourns the Murder of Eight in Atlanta and Calls for Investment in Community-Led Responses

On the night of Tues­day, 16 March, a 21-year-old white man attacked three spas in the metro Atlanta area, shoot­ing and killing eight peo­ple. Six of the eight vic­tims were Kore­an Amer­i­can women. This attack is the worst pos­si­ble out­come of the rise in coro­n­avirus-dri­ven anti-Asian hatred – anoth­er mass shoot­ing root­ed in white suprema­cy and goad­ed by politi­cians’ xeno­pho­bic rhetoric. 

The inci­dent is a hor­rif­ic peak in the big­otry we’ve all wit­nessed over the past year: once again, mar­gin­al­ized work­ing-class immi­grants are tar­get­ed at a time of glob­al cri­sis; once again, we wit­ness our nation’s inabil­i­ty to rec­og­nize the dom­i­nance of gen­dered white suprema­cist vio­lence and racism in all of its struc­tures; once again, our heal­ing is dis­rupt­ed.

Still, local police are not cat­e­go­riz­ing this mass shoot­ing as a hate crime, nor rec­og­niz­ing the sig­nif­i­cant role of both race and gen­der in the shap­ing of this tragedy. But we must be clear: sev­en of the eight vic­tims were women; six of the eight vic­tims were Asian Amer­i­can. It is clear the shoot­er (who has cit­ed “sex­u­al deviance” as his moti­va­tion for mur­der) also had some bias in his tar­get­ing, whether explic­it or implic­it. This, in turn, demands that we – as Asian and Pacif­ic Islander Amer­i­cans, as Amer­i­cans of col­or, as Amer­i­cans gen­er­al­ly – ques­tion how embed­ded anti-Asian rhetoric is in Amer­i­can cul­ture and how Amer­i­can cul­ture ben­e­fits from patri­ar­chal white suprema­cy and era­sure. And more specif­i­cal­ly, these inter­sec­tions point to the clear his­to­ry of dan­ger­ous sex­u­al­iza­tion of Asian women in the U.S. Last night’s shoot­ing can only be under­stood and approached as an act of race‑, class‑, and gen­der-based sex­u­al vio­lence.

Con­sid­er­ing these com­plex­i­ties, it is our respon­si­bil­i­ty as mem­bers and allies of the broad­er APIA com­mu­ni­ty to push for an inter­sec­tion­al analy­sis that under­stands the racism fac­ing Asian and Pacif­ic Islander Amer­i­cans, as well as the vio­lent and sex­u­al­ized misog­y­ny aimed at our East Asian and South­east Asian sis­ters. Our role in this moment is to both remem­ber the pain of our past com­mu­ni­ty expe­ri­ences with mass vio­lence, and hon­or and move towards the point of heal­ing and repa­ra­tion.

Below are some allies who have ties to the vic­tims, their fam­i­lies, and their com­mu­ni­ties; please fol­low them to stay updat­ed on calls to action and news.
- Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice (AAAJ) — Atlanta
- Red Canary Song
- Sur­vived & Pun­ished
- Nation­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Wom­en’s Forum (NAPAWF)

If you’d like to direct resources and sup­port to vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as well as orga­niz­ers on the ground, please use this form (https://bit.ly/georgiaAAPIcommunitycare).

SAALT mourns the loss of our Kore­an Amer­i­can sib­lings’ lives, and in their hon­or, reaf­firms our respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect­ing oth­ers from sim­i­lar harm.