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Guest Post: On the Anniversary of the Dobbs Decision, Black Women Still Remember! By Krystal Leaphart




35 years ago, 16 black women civic and reproductive rights leaders came together to declare that reproductive freedom is essential to the work of racial justice. The collective's brochure is called “We Remember- African American Women are for Reproductive Freedom.” The signatories, which include the late Dorothy Height, now Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Donna Brazile, knew the importance of connecting the fight for reproductive choices to the fight for equity for Black women and their communities. This coalition of Black women called for the following:

 

  1. The right to comprehensive, age-appropriate information about sexuality and reproductive rights.

  2. The right to choose to have a child.

  3. The right to good, affordable health care to assure a safe pregnancy and delivery.

  4. The right to health services to help the infertile achieve pregnancy.

  5. The right to choose not to have a child.

  6. The right to the full range of contraceptive services and appropriate information about reproduction.

  7. The right to choose to end an unwanted pregnancy.

  8. The right to safe, legal, affordable abortion services.

  9. The right to make informed choices.

  10. The fight for easily accessible health care that is proven to be safe and effective.

  11. The right to reproductive health and to make our own reproductive choices.

 

As we observe the second anniversary of the Dobbs Decision, the "We Remember" brochure helps to frame this moment in Reproductive Justice history and offers an important solution: remembering.

 

The National Birth Equity Collaborative, Sister Song: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Black Women's Health Imperative, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, In Our Own Voice: The National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, and Donna Brazile teamed up to declare Abortion Is A Reproductive Justice Issue For Black Families And Communities. This movement consists of Black Members of Congress, dozens of Black-led organizations, and individuals who honor the work of African American Women for Reproductive Freedom and demand that we rise to meet the current moment.  To build on their work, this campaign, the Black Reproductive Justice Agenda, released an ad of signatures and called for a White House Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing to incorporate reproductive justice values into foreign policy and increase funding for Reproductive Justice Organizations. Additionally, organizations submitted an amicus brief on Dobbs vs Jackson Women Health. The brief explains how the United States already faces a maternal health crisis, one that disproportionately affects Black women.

 

In that same spirit of remembering, the Black Maternal Health Federal Policy Collective created the Intersection of Abortion Access and Black Maternal Health. This guide calls for us to remember the deeply rooted United States legacy of reproductive control and coercion.  The reality is that Black women and birthing people are the only group of people who birthed children and were seen as a lucrative labor force that was not always guaranteed birthright citizenship. Due to the ever-present effects of racism, Black maternal health rates are three times worse than white women. The states that plan to roll our strict abortion bans are also the states that are less likely to adopt policies that would provide relief for Black families. These states also have a history of coercive policies within obstetrics and gynecology, like forced sterilization.

 

We must remember that while this decision is about abortion, it is also about more than just abortion. The decision to overturn Roe vs Wade sends a message about numerous progressive precedents. Justice Clarence Thomas boldly named that Same-Sex Marriage and birth control are next on his list. The United States Senator John Cornyn tweeted that the Supreme Court needed to go after Brown vs the Board of Education next. And Congresswoman Mary Miller named this decision as a success for “white life.” As we recall decisions like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act,  it is clear that people opposed to progress have successfully begun executing a long-term plan to dismantle essential Supreme Court decisions that have led to progress for communities at the margins.

 

In closing, the We Remember brochure starts with “Choice is the essence of freedom. African Americans have struggled for all these years….Somebody said that Black Women could be raped, held in concubine, forced to bear children year in and year out, but often not raise them. Oh yes, we have known how painful it is to be without choice in this land.”  They understood that this country depended on our labor, both manual labor and birthing, to keep the institution of slavery running. As we look forward, the attack on reproductive rights and the soul of our Democracy now depend on us fighting back.  The brochure calls us to “Remember who we are, remember our history, our continued struggle for freedom. Remember to tell them that We Remember!” We must hold on to this as we continue the work to provide and protect our communities!

 


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