In his column this morning, Dana Milbank says Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) bill aimed at preventing sex-selective abortions will alienate Asian-Americans. From the column:
Republicans long ago lost African American voters. They are well on their way to losing Latinos. And if Trent Franks prevails, they may lose Asian Americans, too.
The Arizona Republican’s latest antiabortion salvo to be taken up by the House had a benign name — the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act — and a premise with which just about everybody agrees: that a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.
The problem with Franks’s proposal is that it’s not entirely clear there is a problem. Sex-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.
To me, Milbank is headed out on a dangerous limb. It’s one thing to say that the GOP is targeting minorities to harm them, a common but often false liberal claim. It’s one thing to say Franks is going after a non-issue, another common (if generally false) claim by the left regarding pro-life legislation. However, here Milbank is basically saying the GOP should ignore the evidence that sex-selective abortions are taking place in mostly Asian-American communities for the sake of earning favor with a specific minority group. While neither party should be considered extraordinarily trustworthy when it comes to protecting the unborn (Washington did very little for the pro-life movement during the years when Bush and the Republicans held all the cards, for example, and we all remember the infamous Stupak PPACA cave), it seems odd that a pundit should expressly tell a party to abandon principle for electoral victory.
This encouragement to ditch principle is highlighted by the fact that at no point in his column does Milbank attempt to refute the idea that sex-selective abortions take place in Asian-American communities. However, he does say Franks’ “paternalism” is harmful to the Republican Party, and says “various Asian American legal and women’s groups opposed the bill. Franks’ pro-life principles, which include legislation to prevent the sadly high rate of abortions among black women in America from continuing, are hammered as “singling out minority groups to make his political point.” And while he does get credit for being a “principled and consistent opponent of abortion,” Franks gets portrayed as scattered and disorganized, and playing games as opposed to actually bringing forth legitimate legislation.
But, again, Milbank essentially admits that Franks’ concern is legitimate, both in his thesis and by focusing on electoral strategy instead of principle. I don’t think he has much choice in the matter, though, as there exists substantial evidence that sex-selective abortions are taking place in Asian-American communities. In my interview with pro-life activist Jill Stanek a few weeks ago we touched on sex-selective abortions, and Stanek sent me a link to evidence backing up her claim that this is especially common in Asian-American communities. When I e-mailed her about Milbank’s column, Stanek sent me the following response: “Does Milbank really mean to say let female gendercide continue unabated in America for fear of losing Asian votes? He’s apparently not too concerned about the female Asian vote.” Similarly, Ed has reported the White House opposes the bill, and notes the following political irony: “This is the same administration that’s spent the last few months crying about a “war on women,” right? Well, here’s a fight in which females are taking real casualties, and … nothing.”
Franks’ bill is up for a vote today in the House of Representatives under suspension of the rules, meaning two-thirds of House Members must vote for its passage instead of the normal majority. I talked with Franks’ press secretary for the reason this was done, since this plays into Milbank’s insinuation that Franks is playing games with pro-life legislation and I wanted to give the Congressman a chance to refute the claim. Unfortunately, she had not gotten back to me with the Congressman’s answer by the time of publication. I also e-mailed Milbank regarding which Asian-American organizations oppose Franks’ legislation, as well as whether or not he believes sex-selective abortions are taking place in Asian-American communities, but he didn’t get back to me, either.