Welcome Back! It’s Been a While.
Welcome back to Grisblog! It has been two years since our last blog post and considering that the United States is crumbling into a million fiery pieces, we decided it was time for our revival as a resource for news and commentary on all things reproductive rights in Connecticut and beyond. First, let’s do some introductions. NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut has two new Summer 2020 interns, Lily James, and Alexis Sher! Lily is a senior at Mount Holyoke College, double-majoring in Gender Studies and Sociology. Reflecting on what she is most eager to delve into this summer, Lily shared, “I’m so excited to be contributing to the incredible work NARAL Pro-Choice CT is doing to protect reproductive freedom and advocate for our courageous, intersectional community.” Alexis, a senior double-majoring in Hispanic Literatures & Cultures and Government at Wesleyan University similarly shared that she, “is looking forward to contributing to political and advocacy efforts to safeguard reproductive freedom in our state.” By the way, we (Lily & Alexis) will be writing Grisblog’s posts throughout the summer, so reach out, ask us questions, let us know what you’d like to see us write about, and give us feedback. We want to hear from you! You can write to us at email@example.com.
How can a Reproductive Justice lens help us approach current events?
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao. Since Floyd’s killing, publicly released bystander and security footage reveal that for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Derek Chauvin pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with his knee on his neck. Various videos show that even after Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and proceeded to lose consciousness, Mr. Chauvin did not remove his knee, nor did the bystanding police officers intervene. George Floyd’s murder is not the first of its kind. Rather, it is yet another example of the devastating consequences of police brutality on Black communities in the United States. George Floyd joins a disturbingly long list of innocent Black men, women, and children who have been senselessly murdered by police officers: Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, and many others. In response to George Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter Movement has demanded that Black victims of police brutality, their families, and communities receive justice. Moreover, supported by an eruption of nationwide protests, they have called to dismantle systemic racism and oppressive institutions rooted in white supremacy, like the police, that continue to uphold it. Thousands of individuals and organizations have spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, pledging to donate to racial justice organizations, buy from Black-owned businesses, and not just call out racist behavior, but be actively anti-racist. Perhaps most importantly, advocates have highlighted that the movement to protect Black lives and demand justice for those who have lost theirs, is not just a social media trend. Rather, in response to hundreds of years of segregation, oppression, and genocide of Black people, it is a revolution that refuses to be silenced.
The Reproductive Justice movement is rooted in the fight for racial justice. And now, more than ever, organizations fighting to secure reproductive rights have a duty to center Black lives and recognize that reproductive freedom cannot exist without racial justice. Though indigenous women, Black women and other women of color, and trans women had been fighting for Reproductive Justice (RJ) far before, the term was officially coined in 1994 by the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, a group of Black women in Chicago that recognized that given its roots in whiteness and wealth, the mainstream American women’s rights movement did not, and never would, fight for the needs of marginalized women. The Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice were pioneers in recognizing that reproductive rights and racial equality are mutually exclusive human rights and thus, must be focalized and pursued together. In 1997, the RJ Movement erupted with the birth of SisterSong, a national collective of Black women and women of color that seeks to “build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.” Since its founding, SisterSong has underscored the acute discrepancies in access to reproductive healthcare across the United States. The most starking one? According to SisterSong, Southern Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. SisterSong actively challenges the mainstream dichotomy of “pro-choice” and “pro-life”, and instead, shifts the lens to the importance of guaranteeing universal and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare in the first place. SisterSong further outlines this crucial difference on their website, stating:
“Mainstream movements have focused on keeping abortion legal as an individual choice. That is necessary, but not enough. Even when abortion is legal, many women of color cannot afford it, or cannot travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic […] Women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more.’
The barriers that women of color face when accessing reproductive healthcare services is rooted in the inherent racism of American institutions, and to the surprise of many white people, even in the reproductive freedom movement. Reproductive Justice, however, seeks to deconstruct these gendered and racialized power structures that oppress, in many forms, marginalized women and their communities. Crucial to understanding this dynamic is an awareness of the systemic, intersectional– rather than individual– effects of racism, misogyny, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia as well as many more systemic structures of oppression. It’s this systemic oppression that contributes to political brutality against Black folks. It’s not just one or two bad police officers.
When thinking about reproductive freedom, we must center Black lives and other truths of the RJ movement. Reproductive Justice is the answer because choice does not exist without access. Reproductive Justice is the answer because white supremacy is a public health issue. Reproductive Justice is the answer because Black women’s lives matter, Black queer lives matter, and Black trans lives matter. Reproductive Justice is the answer because it acknowledges that to make reproductive freedom a reality for all, our country must recognize that all Black lives matter.
In an effort to promote Black and Brown voices, check out the following links and titles to learn more about Reproductive Justice:
- SisterSong. https://www.sistersong.net
- “Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice” by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutierrez https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2004/10/01/1115/undivided-rights-women-of-color-organize-for-reproductive-justice/
- “Reproductive Justice: What It Means and Why It Matters (Now, More Than Ever)” by Osub Ahmed and Christy M. Gamble https://www.publichealthpost.org/viewpoints/reproductive-justice/
- “Connecting Reproductive Justice and Black Lives Matter” Ted Talk by Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa. https://www.ted.com/talks/mwende_freequency_katwiwa_black_life_at_the_intersection_of_birth_and_death/transcript?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2018-02-03&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_content=top_right_image
- Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross (March 2017)
- Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundation, Theory, Practice, Critique by Loretta Ross (November 2017)