Winning the Fight for Reproductive Justice Means Finally Putting Black Women in the Driver’s Seat | News

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The momentous ruling of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization it was a startling reminder that disconnected elites still control the bodily autonomy of pregnant women and girls. And yet, the rapid collapse of abortion rights must also be a reckoning moment for the reproductive freedom and abortion rights movements, as a similar group of elites continue to wield inordinate influence over strategic choices. in the fight for reproductive rights. If we are going to win the fight for abortion justice in the long run, we will need to rethink the leadership, strategies, and legal framework of an entire movement.

No social movement, in the United States or globally, has succeeded without the leadership of the people whose lives and opportunities would be most transformed through the process of liberation and progress. Unfortunately, for as long as there have been movements for suffrage and gender equality in the United States, white women have dominated those conversations, often explicitly excluding the interests of black and brown women in the process. That exclusion, a lineage that can be traced directly from susana b anthony for today’s advocates, it must end, not just for abortion rights and reproductive freedom, but for the benefit of all movements that seek to promote the liberation of marginalized people.

When it comes to access to safe abortion and reproductive choice, Black women, by a wide margin, are more affected by draconian bans than any other group. While all kinds of people get pregnant and have abortions, including those who identify as trans, male, and non-binary, Black women are four times more likely have an abortion like white women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also states that nearly half of African American women of childbearing age live in the 22 states that have placed strict restrictions on abortion, and the majority of African American women seeking an abortion in these states .

Dobbs’ ruling is based on legal sleight of hand, arguing that “safe haven adoption” laws rule out the need to terminate pregnancies; but access to abortion is only one facet of reproductive health for black women. Eliminating access to safe abortion will lead to restricted access to health care for Black women, who are more likely to be uninsured, underinsured, experience poverty, or live in a “contraception desert”, where access to reproductive care it is more precarious.

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These factors, combined with centuries of medical racism and white supremacy, mean that black women are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women.

In other words, the conservative majority on the Court has decided that their religious orthodoxy is more important than the lives of Black women and girls.

If we want to win a long-term fight for reproductive freedom for all, Black women must be at the forefront of every aspect of that fight: framing legislation, devising legal strategy, prioritizing advocacy demands, organizing grassroots activists, provide health services and more.

“If we want to win a long-term fight for reproductive freedom for all, Black women must be at the forefront of every aspect of that fight.”

Unfortunately, there are very few black and brown women left in leadership roles in the organizations and formations that push the national agenda for abortion rights and reproductive freedom. This is not just an ethical failing, but a tactical one. As Plessy v. Ferguson, Black civil rights leaders and activists have been at the forefront of crafting the legal strategy needed to confront oppression. While this creativity has sadly been honed through relentless fighting for our own liberation, the knowledge that our system will never concede power without a demand is an essential starting point for this particular battle.

This knowledge, and its strategic consequences, is at the core of why we need to rethink who leads social movements and how. Take, for example, the recent and much-reported public upheaval in the Guttmacher Institute, one of the country’s leading reproductive rights organizations. While they wasted valuable resources fighting internal battles, however created by many years of refusing to recognize Black women’s leadership, the group was unprepared to face the most important political moment in at least two generations distinctive of its main mission.

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While Guttmacher is only the most public example of institutional actors asleep in the face of change, the rest of the reproductive rights movement is equally guilty of being too comfortable with the status quo. The movement is characterized by a daisy chain of related legal and non-profit organizations, made up primarily of well-paid white women, who are prohibited from playing realpolitik by focusing on practical matters, but are instead paralyzed by their status. tax 501c3 nonprofit.

Listen, some of these organizations do some great, important, and necessary work, but that work lacks foundation in the kind of substantive, inclusive grassroots movement that could make a difference in protecting people from having their rights seized by of conservative elites.

As a result, the real job of protecting people’s health and lives falls to Black activists at the grassroots level. People likes it asian browna rising senior at Spelman College who showed up every day to the Jackson, Mississippi health clinic at the center of the Supreme Court ruling, with a job: to help black women get safe abortions amid a barrage of harassment from radical forced births.

According to a report from nbc news, Brown recalls an elderly white man yelling at him outside the clinic for instigating the “murder” of future football recruits. The language is not accidental and reveals much more than what the forced birth movement really thinks about black lives. As states move to criminalize both abortion seekers and providers, the unequal treatment of Black people by the criminal legal system gives us a clear roadmap of what the anti-rights movement decide is planning next.

At a recent reproductive justice forum in New York City, Olayem Olurina public defender from The Legal Aid Society, indicated that “when it comes to efforts to criminalize abortion, we already know who will end up being criminalized.”

Given these factors, we must do everything we can to ensure that reproductive justice efforts are led by Black and Brown women whose lives and livelihoods are literally at stake in this fight. Professor of Law at Howard University Lisa A. Crooms-Robinson suggests considering the 13th Amendment’s abolition of slavery as a starting point.

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“As states move to criminalize both those who seek abortions and those who provide them, the unequal treatment of Black people by the criminal legal system provides us with a clear roadmap for what the anti-rights movement decide is planning next”.

“This is not a claim that forced pregnancy…is analogous to slavery,” she argues in a recent opinion piece for nbc news“Rather, it is a direct statement that a law protecting Black reproductive health, which goes beyond abortions, is essential to Black freedom because slavery denied Black rights, including those recognized in Roe”.

So what’s the plan? Let’s start by building a protective infrastructure, bodily, legal and otherwise, that supports our sisters who will always need access to safe maternal health care. We should build institutions, organizations and movements in the image of women like Asia Brown, who risk their lives, not because they want to, but because they have to. That means shifting real resources to the people doing the work at every level of this fight, including grassroots activists who are constantly and tragically underfunded.

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The truth of the matter is that wealthy white women will always have access to safe abortions, regardless of the so-called law of the land. Our legal system protects the rights and property of the privileged, as usual, while pulling the rug out from under the feet of the marginalized over and over again. This is unacceptable, unconscionable and, simply put, it is time we put an end to it.

nekima levy armstrong is a civil rights attorney, activist, and executive director of the Wayfinder Foundationthat has a mission: invest in women, change the world.