Defending the Right to Choose Means We Must Hit the Streets and the Polls in Support of Birthing Bodies
By Janette Robinson-Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness Action Project
Black Women for Wellness Action Project is a Groundswell Action Fund grantee.
We must defend the right to choose. Globally, we have been in crisis for some time, and while there must be space for us to grieve the massive burden of SCOTUS’ June decision to walk back the rights of women in this country, #Rovember is coming.
We can see how protests work. These past years have proven it as people have protested and condemned various forms of legalized and state-sanctioned violence, from the George Floyd uprising to the response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran. In the next few weeks, we must voice our protest in the streets and at the polls to advocate for bodily autonomy.
As a long-time advocate for Black women’s health, I believe that by these measures, we can turn such intersecting crises into the opportunity to shift material conditions for all bodies to have autonomy and control over our sexuality, gender, work, and reproduction.
As a group, Black people accessing the medical-industrial complex continue to be minimized, marginalized, and criminalized. Black women face the brunt of systemic racism when obtaining reproductive and medical care, often receiving poor quality prenatal care and are more likely to be criminalized for miscarriages. Maternal mortality is already significantly higher for Black women than for their white and Hispanic peers.
Across the board, the US Ranks poorly in terms of maternal support & outcomes. The extremity of the new laws at state and national levels criminalize women and their care providers. These attempts to outlaw abortion do not stop at one procedure but instead move to shut down clinics and restrict access based on income level.
After all, true political, social, and economic power comes from the ability to make healthy decisions about our bodies, futures, and in all areas of our lives. Organizers across the nation now grapple with the compounding impacts the fall of Roe & Casey will have, especially on Black & Brown communities. This is where the fight for full-spectrum Reproductive Justice must come into consideration.
A reproductive justice vision includes access to quality medical and reproductive care — including and beyond abortion access. The blows from SCOTUS, certain elected officials, and interest groups only further infantilize and restrict our freedom to make informed choices. This is especially devastating in a nation suffering the impacts of a global pandemic, rising inflation, rising housing costs, and climate change.
Right now, most abortions are banned in 13 states, there are over 6 states with abortion directly on the ballot and tens of others with legislation positioned for near or total bans on abortions. All these motions add to the locus of systemic and material issues.
It can not be overstated what this means for Black women: Black women will die trying to get an abortion or because they couldn’t get an abortion. Black families will suffer because they no longer have the right to choose if, when, or how to start a family. And half the states in the union will proceed to criminalize Black women experiencing pregnancy loss.
As bodies that birth, all women and gender-non-conforming folks must force action together with our allies. It is clear that the Hill must find that lock-step too. President Biden’s executive order was a boon for the cause of Reproductive Justice, but it also highlighted the importance of voting and mid-term electoral participation.
SCOTUS’ ruling is a blow that only further infantilizes and restricts the freedom to make informed choices about our own bodies that critically affect our futures, families, and communities. Access to quality family planning & reproductive care is needed now.
State by state, our national landscape has already changed as the migration for care, waves of providers and recipients, mark lasting impact. This has put additional pressure on existing service providers with little time to adjust to the great urgency. I believe we must find a new groove as each protest, vote, and donation matters.
As the 2022 midterm elections inch closer, our purpose is clear: We must strive to knock out the malignant leadership that restrains the necessary progress we need for survival. We must vote, we must protest. And through doing so, we will protect our civil and human rights by any means necessary.
We won’t go down without a fight.