May is national Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and the perfect time to shout out five Asian American and Pacific Islander women who are fearlessly standing up for reproductive health, rights and justice.
We only have to look at a few recent examples to see how much work needs to be done to bust racial stereotypes about Asian American women and our reproductive health care. Take the recent House Judiciary hearing on a bill that would restrict access to abortion for women of color and perpetuates the racist myth that AAPI families do not value girls, and the racial and cultural stereotypes at play in the case of Purvi Patel in Indiana. And let’s not forget the 339 anti-abortion restrictions that have been introduced around the country since 2010.
As the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an organization dedicated to social justice and human rights for Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls in this country, I’m proud to work alongside these inspiring women to fight for a future we believe in (and to high five them while doing it).
1. Representative Judy Chu, Congresswoman from California.
Representative Judy Chu was an original cosponsor of the EACH (Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance) Woman Act (H.R. 2972) and introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 448) as lead House sponsor. Together, these groundbreaking, proactive bills would lift the bans that deny abortion coverage and remove many of the barriers to abortion access enacted by anti-abortion politicians around the country in recent years. For AAPI women who already face too many barriers to abortion care, these bills would transform access.
2. Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs With Justice.
Gupta helms Jobs With Justice, a national nonprofit organization leading the fight for workers’ rights — including everything from strengthening basic workplace protections to reforming the immigration system. Gupta works for economic justice while also making connections to other movements for social change ‚ for example writing in Time magazine that working women need a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, to make ends meet.
3. Shivana Jorawar, Board Member, Jahajee Sisters.
Jorawar is a co-founder and board member of Jahajee Sisters, a movement-building organization led by Indo-Carribean women with ancestral roots in South Asia and born in the Carribean and South American Countries. Jorawar has been a leading Asian American voice for immigrant women’s health, abortion coverage, and reproductive justice for AAPI women.
4. Ha Tran, Collective Member, Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP).
Tran has been a collective member Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, Richmond’s only all-volunteer, grassroots abortion fund, for three years. Founded 12 years ago, it helps those struggling to make ends meet access abortion in Virginia by providing direct funding and logistical support, including arranging accommodation and transport to clinics. This year Tran and the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project raised over $39, 000 in donations to support their work as part of the National Network of Abortion Fund’s Bowl-a-Thon.
5. Mel R. Medalle, Policy and Advocacy Program Manager, SisterLove, Inc.
In addition to working at SisterLove, the Atlanta-based reproductive and sexual health organization, Medalle is also the Chair of the Atlanta chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). In 2015 she led a delegation to Capitol Hill in support of insurance coverage for abortion to show that Asian and Pacific Islander Women will not be silent on reproductive justice.
As an AAPI woman, I am so proud to be part of an amazing community of FIERCE sisters working for change.
Here’s to ending stereotypes about AAPI women and recognizing all the ways we’re making the world a better place!
photos via Women Politics Media, Courage & Co Photography, and Jobs With Justice.
Miriam Yeung is the executive director for the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum.