Thursday, May 31, 2012
We are told that today's GOP is becoming a whites-only affair. How did this come to pass? Well, according to Dana Millbank, it's due in part to Republicans' insistence on proposing legislation to ban sex-selection abortions. Such a law, in the view of Rep. Barbara Lee, would "lead to further stigmatization of women, especially Asian Pacific American women." Millbank writes that the problem "is that it's not entirely clear there is a problem" with sex-selection abortion in the U.S. He acknowledges that "[s]ex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it's happening in this country, it's mostly among Asian immigrants." I'm not sure I follow Millbank's logic. It's not clear it's a problem in this country, but (or because?) it's happening "mostly among Asian immigrants?" Or does the fact that the practice is concentrated among a particular minority group mean that legislation targeting the practice is inescapably discriminatory? As Millbank puts it, this is "paternalism toward minority groups," and may cause the GOP to "lose Asian Americans."
Perhaps there are other flaws in the proposed legislation (which apparently has little chance of passing the House), but I'm having a very hard time seeing the bill as anti-Asian. If the political community deems a practice morally odious and unacceptable, why does the prudence of its legal prohibition depend on the concentration of its practitioners within a particular racial or immigrant group? We would not hesitate to use law to try to prevent the custom of sati from taking root in the United States -- i.e., a widow throwing herself on her husband's funeral pyre -- even if practitioners tended to be concentrated within immigrant Hindu communities. So why does a bill banning sex-selection abortion automatically become part of the "GOP for whites only" narrative?