This post is part of our "What Does Choice Mean to You?" series commemorating the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
On a bitterly cold, winter morning in early 2008, an
anti-choice protester approached me and said, "I’m sorry your parents didn’t
teach you the ways of the Buddha." I was
wearing WACDTF‘s signature oversized,
bright orange mesh vest donned by all clinic escort volunteers, and neither the
cold nor the color of the vest could compete with my raging anger. My WACDTF training kicked in and I managed to
restrain myself long enough to walk away from the protester, but I spent the
rest of the morning projecting silent epithets at the middle-aged, graying
white man standing just 20 feet away.
"How dare he?" I
fumed. Clearly, the man made a sweeping assumption that because I appear Asian,
I must be Buddhist. Wrong! I don’t know
a thing about Buddhism (besides some of the new age-y stuff I’ve heard here and
there), and when I asked the other clinic escorts if the protester had made
similar remarks to them, none of them replied that he had. (I was the only
Asian American escort that day.)
What that morning reminded me, and what I’m reminded of time
and time again is that "choice" is not just a decision when you’re a woman of
color; it’s an identity that becomes inextricably tied to one’s race, gender
and family affiliation. When a woman of color seeks family planning services,
her decisions are viewed as representative of her family upbringing, her
community and her race.
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That’s why reproductive justice organizations like the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum are
speaking out against discriminatory policies that seek to undermine Roe v. Wade
and pit communities of color against the pro-choice movement. For example, proposals to ban abortions based
and so-called "race selection" have been cropping up on the federal and state
levels. Proponents claim the bills
protect the health and human rights of women and girls, particularly Asian
American and Pacific Islander and African-American women. In practice, the
proposals would limit the reproductive health options of women and girls of
color, and exacerbate racial stereotypes.
On the anniversary of Roe, I continue to be a
pro-choice, reproductive justice advocate because I don’t want others to choose
for me or my sisters. As a daughter of
immigrant parents, I refuse to let the anti-choice movement define who I am and
who they think I should be. And, as an
Asian American woman who had an abortion, I reject any attempts to blame my
parents or my race for a medical service that I wanted, needed and don’t