As the country commemorates what could be the last anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, Black women remain focused on pushing forward. A coalition of Black women-led organizations and supporters published an advertisement in the New York Times calling abortion a “reproductive justice issue for Black families and communities.”
The National Birth Equity Collaborative, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Sister Song, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda collaborated in the letter and call to action. With the fate of abortion access resting in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, Black organizers reaffirm the broader issues and support building an “anti-racist and gender-inclusive model of health care.”
“On this 49th and potentially LAST anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we demand systemic change that is grounded in reproductive justice and promotes an anti-racist and gender-inclusive model of health care,” tweeted the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
The groups have three primary goals:
– Increase funding and support to Black Reproductive Justice organizations working to ensure equitable access to safe and legal abortion, healthcare, and other services in our communities
– The establishment of a White House Office of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellbeing that can push forward a federal strategy for promoting equitable sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, and
– The incorporation of reproductive justice values into foreign policy, which includes ratifying human rights treaties that protect sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Letter signors include a mixture of Congressional representatives, leaders of reproductive justice organizations, celebrities and influencers, academics and public health experts. It represents a commitment to fighting for rights and bodily autonomy beyond any court decision.
“Today marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which guaranteed abortion as a legal right in the U.S., and we’ll be honest y’all – we’re tired of talking about Roe,” the Yellowhammer Fund posted on Instagram. “We’re tired of having to accept the bare minimum when it comes to our most basic and essential health care rights. We in the pro-abortion movement are always saying ‘Roe is the floor, not the ceiling.'”
The current movement builds on the work of 16 Black women leaders in 1989 who launched a movement for reproductive freedom and released a six-page brochure outlining several principles of freedom and self-determination.
“This freedom—to choose and to exercise our choices—is what we’ve fought and died for,” read the brochure. “There have always been those who have stood in the way of our exercising our rights, who tried to restrict our choices. There probably always will be. But we who have been oppressed should not be swayed in our opposition to tyranny, of any kind, especially attempts to take away our reproductive freedom.”
Five years later, Black women would carve out the reproductive justice framing ahead of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The group called Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice met in Chicago. Based on a human rights framework, reproductive justice refers to the “human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” (Check out this reading list from Black Women Radicals).
“Roe must be protected, but legality alone has never been enough — help us fight to #LiberateAbortion and for policies that let all people know that they are trusted to make their own pregnancy decisions #AbortionIsEssential,” tweeted the Atlanta-based Feminist Women’s Health Center.
Last year, reproductive justice groups used the anniversary of Roe to reset the national understanding of the fight for abortion rights. Protecting legal abortion is essential, but Roe has always been the floor.
Also, Abortion restrictions increase disparities in Black women’s health and exacerbate maternal well-being. Now more than ever, it is imperative that Black women and pregnant people, along with their families, have the right to choose how and when they will exist.