Abortion and the politicization of black women’s bodies

know about Abortion and the politicization of black women’s bodies

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On December 1, 2021, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization amid outrage from reproductive rights advocates. Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy blatantly defies court precedent that sets the abortion limit at around 24 weeks. There is concern that the Mississippi law will be upheld by a majority of judges, leading to the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade.

Since the right to abortion in Roe was first established by the court, the policy around abortion has changed dramatically. Today, the religious right is perceived as a strong political movement against abortion rights, whereas in the past, the issue of limiting abortion was perceived as a “catholic problem” which most other denominations did not generally consider to be a broadly Christian position.

The rise of the religious right’s anti-abortion narrative fits into the political framework of a period in which anti-black policies and racist interests were advantageous to those seeking power, in this case following a legacy of reproductive injustice specifically to women. black women.

Before 1973 Roe decision, messages related to issues such as abortion and other reproductive rights were likely evaluated through a racially neutral lens. As evidenced in common narratives of the religious right, it is more commonly expressed than the religious right’s response to Roe it was due to backlash over the decision to allow a channel for people to terminate their pregnancies, which is not entirely true.

civil rights movement

As the civil rights movement began to make inroads in the 1960s, churches remained mostly segregated. Green vs. Connally (1971) and other decisions across the country began to establish that the Internal Revenue Service can deny tax-exempt status or deductible contributions to any organization operating a private school that discriminates in admissions on the basis of race.

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As religious institutions began to respond to the effects of these cases, powerful evangelical religious leaders began calling themselves “new abolitionists” and began vehemently defending their rights to run their religious academies and universities without government interference. , as they had become accustomed to raising money and recruiting students for a personalized education.

A movement grew to establish the church as a strong political actor to preserve these rights. This included religious institutions. randall balmerhistorian at Dartmouth College, is a leading scholar who analyzes this connection between segregationist beliefs and abortion rights in his book, “Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right.”

After trying various issues to unify under, abortion became the issue of choice. A common American paradox emerged, especially in the southern states: vehemently advocating segregationist values ​​under the guise of freedom from government interference, one that dates back to slavery and civil war.

Strip reproductive autonomy through law

The reproductive autonomy of black women has has traditionally been stripped by law in our country, like enslaved black women they were commonly forced to engage in sexual activities through rape, their maternal work was controlled and appropriated, and their children were sold.

Enslaved women were also severely criminalized for infanticide despite the horrors of slavery and in cases where they gave birth to stillborn babies or babies who died soon after. Legal recourse was rare due to its legal status.

These punitive cases were sensationalized by racist tropes of the violent and monstrous black mother. Furthermore, in order to maintain and justify the treatment of black women at the time, racist characterizations sexual health of black women and girls and maternity persisted during that time and included stereotypes about black women’s sexual prowess, criminality, lack of intelligence, and inherent sexually deviant behavior.

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Jim Crow, southern strategy

Historians often reference these tropes when referring to black codes, Jim Crow laws, and political strategies like the Southern Strategy that harness racist white solidarity and lead to mass incarceration. Not surprisingly, the narrative around abortion developed at a time when political figures were criminalizing anti-black tropes for political advantage through the era of criminalization known as the war on drugs.

During and after the social movements of the 1960s, racist tropes against black women resurfaced alongside their male counterparts by racist political gain. The anti-abortion movement reflects the message that was common at the time during its rise, as it criminalizes and vilifies anyone who makes the decision to have an abortion.

Although black women are not the only people who have abortions, the religious right continues a legacy of describe women seeking abortion as lazy, immoral, irrational, criminal and uneducated despite a wealth of information about the reasons to seek abortionand the need for access to sex education, access to health care, and access to contraceptives for improve lives of those living in marginalized communities.

These tropes exist regardless of the reasoning behind a woman’s decision to seek abortion services, and the religious right has developed a high level of theory, unable to examine the racist origins of its own movement. All people who seek an abortion are affected by these negative tropes, especially anyone who cannot afford the costs of abortion. There are serious consequences for abortion stigma.

the reproductive justice movement emerged as a term coined in 1994 to describe an ongoing movement that recognized that the women’s rights movement, led and represented by wealthy, middle-class white women, could not adequately advocate for the needs of women of color and other women. marginalized women. The racist origins and undercurrents that exist from the erasure of the history of reproductive injustice and the struggles for the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have children, not to have children, and father in safe and sustainable communities can often be ignored.

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Like the decision in dobbs emerges, the reproductive freedom movement will not only depend on the work of reproductive justice activists and organizers, reproductive rights advocates, abortion clinics, abortion funds, etc., but it is also crucial that legal and policy professionals to contribute to the fight.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or their owners.

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Jilisa R. Milton She is a civil rights attorney, policy analyst, community organizer, social worker, and abolitionist of harmful practices against black people. She is a survivor of police violence and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter. Currently, she serves as National Vice President of the National Lawyers Union.