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)