The consequences of Texas' abortion law on Asian American women

Photo by Todd Wiseman

New research has added to the mounting data showing the consequences of Texas’ abortion law women across Texas. Yet one community is almost never mentioned in discussions of House Bill 2 and the case before the U.S. Supreme Court that will determine whether it stands.

It’s time to start telling this story because the outcome of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt could have devastating effects on Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls in Texas and all across the country.

Many are surprised to learn that Texas is home to the country’s third-largest Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In fact, over 266,000 such women of reproductive age live in Texas.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenges the constitutionality of HB 2, a state-level Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, which already has forced more than half of the abortion clinics in the State of Texas to close. Asian American women and girls, from all different walks of life, brought their opposition to this law with a powerful presence at the Supreme Court during oral arguments in March. They joined in solidarity with thousands of women’s health advocates from across the nation to raise our voice and challenge policies that have negative consequences on our health.

Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls living in Texas, an already medically underserved community, now face additional barriers to the care we need and deserve. As we wait for the Supreme Court’s decision, waiting periods for abortion clinic appointments at some clinics are already 23 days long.

If the court decides in favor of the State of Texas, women in the state could be left with even fewer abortion clinics. This means women can be forced to wait almost a month, if not more, just to get an appointment. Currently, women in cities like Midland or Lubbock have to travel at least 300 miles one-way to reach the few remaining clinics in the state. This leads to delayed appointments and more-expensive abortion procedures. This increase in cost can be prohibitive for low-income women in a state like Texas, where abortion is not covered by Medicaid.

Take, for instance, the experience of a woman living in Brazos County, Texas, where the Asian American and Pacific Islander community represents over 5 percent of the total population. Under HB 2, this woman would have to travel over 100 miles — one-way — to get to an abortion clinic in Houston, Austin or Dallas-Fort Worth. Not only would she need funds for her abortion procedure, she would also need funds for the 200 mile trip, to and from the clinic.

This does not take into account the woman’s immigration status, her level of English proficiency, child care costs, losses from taking time off from work or school or her other obligations. For an undocumented woman, driving herself may not be an option at all, as Texas state law would prevent her from getting a driver’s license. TRAP laws may target clinics, but it is women who ultimately pay the price.

Under the guise of promoting women’s health, this TRAP law is truly leaving women trapped. As a matter of public policy, we should ensure women have appropriate resources and adequate access to health care instead of creating insurmountable obstacles preventing our mothers, sisters and daughters from getting the care they desire and deserve.

We cannot afford to create more barriers for Asian American and Pacific Islander women. With our communities growing in Texas and across the country, we need lawmakers to stand up for women’s rights and push back against HB 2 and other laws that restrict access to reproductive health care. We demand dignity and respect. Attempts to make us invisible will not silence our voices.

Miriam W. Yeung

Executive director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

Nimra Chowdhry

Reproductive justice fellow, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum