Why Abortion Matters to Me

Friday, January 25, 2013

by Nadia Hussain

Abortion is the kind of issue you can lose friends over, it is the kind of issue that leads to never ending arguments from both sides of the spectrum. People fight against the right to have abortion, simply citing religious beliefs.

The problem is, it isn’t simple, not by a long-shot. The right to have an abortion is not important to me because it is a woman’s right to have control over her body, nor is it the right to “terminate a life.” The right to have an abortion is a right to equity, it is the right to choice and is a right to allow a women to make the best decision she can about her situation without handing over the reigns to the judgment of others to make that decision on her behalf, often against concerns for her own safety.

Today, Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women are undoubtedly affected by limitations on our “right to choose.” First, insurance coverage bans prevent poor and low-income API women from being able to afford the procedure. This forces many of our sisters, especially those from disadvantaged communities like the Hmong, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese and Cambodian communities, to struggle with difficult decisions— do I make my rent payment this month, or take care of my health?  Second, there are bills being considered that target API women and would make getting an abortion harder for us by criminalizing doctors for “sex selective abortions.” Of course, API women are the ones proponents claim are choosing such abortions, since it happens widely in some Asian countries. This law would mean we could be denied abortion care because a doctor assumes we are choosing to abort a female fetus, simply because of our ethnicity. This is not new legislation, there has been similar legislation promoting racist stereotypes for years.  Have you heard of the deceptively named “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”? It failed in the U.S. House, but similar versions are being proposed in the states.

What scares me is the prospect that API women in the U.S. will meet the same fate Savita Halappanavar did. Savita was an Indian woman who died after being refused an abortion to terminate her life-threatening pregnancy.  Savita was an API woman in Ireland, but API women in this country could face similar fates if the right to have an abortion is taken out of their hands.

The right to have an abortion is also important to me because I know banning abortions will not prevent them from occurring. It will only drive them underground, where equity in terms of choice will be vanquished. It will go back to the good old days, where rich, mostly Caucasian women who wanted an abortion could get one discreetly by arranging a visit from a doctor, while poor women and women of color were either forced to have a baby or get dangerous abortion procedures in back alleys. The undeniable truth is when abortions were illegal they were still happening. When it comes down to it, the attacks on reproductive health we are seeing would ensure that privileged women have access to abortions while poor women, including a high number of women of color will NOT have that access.

Moreover, I believe that there needs to be emphasis on contraception—even from those that claim the ‘pro-life” label. Did you know that according to the Guttmacher Institute [1], global abortion rates have fallen in countries that have had legalized abortion for years? Western and Northern Europe has had legal abortion for decades and widespread access to contraception use. These areas now have the lowest abortion rates in the world. Many Anti-Choice movements are against abortion access and comprehensive sex education, with little or no emphasis on contraception. This kind of mentality would only increase unwanted pregnancies and abortions. This kind of mentality could put women’s lives at risk.

Abortion rights are women’s rights, social and economic equity, and women’s health. If you support those three things, then you can understand the value of the right to an abortion and see why it is imperative that it be kept legal, safe, and accessible.

Nadia Hussain is a Bangladeshi American activist, poet, blogger and photographer with a passion for human rights work and progressive politics. She lives in Oakland, CA, where she works with refugee and emerging API communities.

This post is part of Still Wading: Forty years of resistance, resilience and reclamation in communities of color, a blog series by Strong Families commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.


  1. I am a student attending the University Of New Haven, and in some my classes the topic about abortion seems to always come up. Abortion is a topic where both pro-life and pro-choice individuals can argue for days. From the beginning I've always been about pro-life but every time this topic comes up I find myself leaning more towards pro-choice. Here are some reasons why I find myself leaning more towards giving the women a choice. I have read couple articles about why women should have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies and it is true. The women herself knows what is best for her life and especially for her body. Government should not have any say in Technically, at the 3rd trimester where you are allowed to abort, there is no life. So,you would not be killing a life. In other cases, pregnancy can be a death sentence for some women. So not only will you be killing one but TWO lives. Some pro-life individuals would say "You can give them up for abortion", but here is something they did not realize. These people don't realize that when these kids are given up for adoption they are not likely to be adopted right away. In todays world, there are so many kids that still does not have a family and been waiting to be adopted for 2-5 years. So by giving them away, you are just increasing more children to be alone. What I agree the most about this blog is that making abortion illegal does not terminate people from having them. They would just have it as underground, probably in places you would never thought of. These are reasons why I find myself changing my mind a little more everyday.