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It’s no secret that the fall of Roe v. Wade has profoundly affected the lives of millions of people across the United States. We constantly face new accounts of women and young girls whose lives and futures hang in the balance because of a lack of proper access to abortion services. So far, 14 states and counting have effectively banned abortion after the fall of Roe. There has been a concerted effort to enforce a 1931 law criminalizing abortion here in Michigan, but luckily for our communities, the effort was blocked.  

 We’ll keep hearing about the devastation as we grapple with the effects of the fall of Roe. But, as it stands, Black women’s experiences are being excluded from the national narrative. And with the election just weeks away, it is time for us to rectify this immediately.   

Presently, I proudly co-lead a Black-women-led progressive network, Michigan Voices, fighting to build civic engagement and engage BIPOC communities across Michigan. As people who’ve been routinely targeted and neglected by institutions like corporations and our government, we’re committed to bringing politics to those who need them the most – and that’s often people of color. We’re rallying our communities to mobilize and join the fight for some of the most critical issues of our times, including reproductive freedom.  

 Next month, our reproductive freedom will be on the ballot in Michigan in Proposition 3, and we must focus on the cruciality of our decisions being our own — especially for Black women. In real-time, we see the consequences of what happens when decisions about our bodies, futures, and lives are made for us, not by us. Full stop, Black women must be centered in stories about reproductive justice, and we must be given the space to share our stories – especially as we’re the ones with the most to lose.  

 A rundown of the numbers shows us why we need to hear Black women’s voices in the fight for bodily autonomy. As it currently stands, Black women are four times more likely to have an abortion than their white counterparts – yet this issue is still solidly portrayed as a white woman’s issue rather than the reality that people of color are most impacted. Furthermore, Black women already face high maternal mortality rates, and these numbers will only rise without the freedom to decide what’s best for our bodies and our families. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.  

This is why the language we use and the stories we tell to further our causes matter. Language shapes how we think and tackle issues like abortion bans and gives us the tools necessary to work toward solutions. We will not be able to do this if we cannot even focus on the very people most affected by such crises.  

At this moment, narratives around our reproductive rights have never been more critical, and we mustn’t leave Black women’s experiences and needs behind. It is imperative that our language, when sharing Black women’s stories, is centered on care and compassion, especially as Black women and girls are often both neglected and targeted in stories about reproductive rights.  

 We must also use vocabulary that concretely and accurately paints the economic realities of Black women. COVID-19 has widened long-standing income gaps, where Black women make just 67 cents for every dollar paid to white men. Having a child remains one of the most significant economic decisions a family will ever make, and such a decision should be left to families without any interference from the government.  

We must also remember to root the language we use to discuss solutions in the freedom to decide and empathy. The fight to protect Black women’s bodily autonomy must be rooted in care, which means access to abortions and birth control must readily be available to all of us. And in Michigan, we’re determined to send a message to all who threaten our futures that we refuse to accept this new post-Roe reality as our permanent status quo, and we will fight back every step.  

Sommer Foster is the Co-Executive Director of Michigan Voices.  


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