By Andrea Plaid
Forward Together‘s Strong Families Movement curated a superb commemoration of Roe v. Wade‘s 40th anniversary this week. Of course, the organization showcased fantastic work by artist-activists like Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler
and Favianna Rodriguez.
And the organization compiled some of the best posts from quite a few writers-activists of color thinking through what Roe means to them and to their larger communities, like Dr. Ziegler:
For reproductive justice advocates of color, the strategic act of centering Roe v. Wade can be useful in that it provides a documented history of resistance against a medical industry driven by pharmaceutical genocide. However, because this framework privileges a concept of “woman” concerned primarily with abortion access, it advances a dangerous narrative that erases the multiple ways that generations of trans women of color have also organized around similar issues of reproductive oppression. Specifically, the right of an individual to exercise control and fight for the safety of their bodies despite their gender and sexuality.
Arguably, abortion runs as deep in our modern human history as pregnancy does. Our ancestors had ways of terminating pregnancies long before the U.S. Supreme Court existed. And while we commemorate and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, we know that it does not mark an anniversary of the beginning of this family planning method. Abortion has been, and will continue to be, part of a wide array of methods that we use to control our bodies and fertility, regardless of its legality.
In today’s binary political system, however, abortion has become oversimplified. Although fraught with social, economic, cultural, and political meaning, abortion has been reduced to a singular and isolated issue in the political arena. And yet, just below the surface of political silencing, those of us whose experiences with abortion do not fit neatly into didactic sound-bites and talking points for pundits and policymakers in their public debates about our bodies, the waters of human experience still run deep.
I firmly believe a woman should have the ability to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, raise the child, choose adoption or end the pregnancy because she is the best person to make this decision since no one else knows her personal situation. If a woman does decide to terminate a pregnancy, it’s also critical that she have the option of abortion services that are both financially and geographically accessible. This includes eliminating financial barriers that may be standing in her way. However, current federal law restricts some women’s ability to have real access to abortion services.
Forward Together’s Shanelle Matthews:
Ten years later there is so much about my abortion story that’s more fucked up than I could understand then. The shame that is associated with abortion and other difficult reproductive health decisions forces women to display an act of grieving whether they feel that way or not. The alternative meaning you’re entirely morally bankrupt. The doctor’s comment about my being articulate meant he had made some assumptions about me, (and other women who sat straddling his head full of curls). What the implications of those assumptions are I didn’t know but it felt unnerving. Every day I work in reproductive justice trying to compel other people to be brave and share their stories but it has taken me a decade to tell this story and that’s because even within the “movement” there is stigma.
and Samara Azam-Yu:
As a young woman of color and an activist, it can feel like being a tiny, relatively unimportant drop in a formidable tide of change. But one thing makes me certain I must continue to do this work: somehow, women of color, young women, low-income women, immigrant women, and women in rural areas are still waiting while barriers to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, continue to trump legal rights and provision of health services, human dignity, and self-determination.
but also those like Jazmine Walker, who are thinking through what commemorating Roe even means in light of Mississippi doing its goddamnedest to be the first state not to have an abortion clinic within its borders:
As a Mississippian, I have watched government officials, church leaders, anti-choice activists, and citizens fight tirelessly to criminalize abortion in my home state. Though I am grateful for the positive impact Roe v. Wade has had for women across the nation, I can’t help but find celebrating its 40th anniversary bittersweet. In Mississippi, we sorely lack meaningful and sustainable help in the fight for full reproductive justice for poor families and women of color. To add insult to injury, while Mississippi continues to be a battleground over women’s rights, pro-choice discourse and activism surrounding the state too often implies that we are “backwards.”
Mississippians can no longer afford to have these conversations continue in isolation. As out-of-towners come into Mississippi this weekend to protest the closing of our sole abortion clinic, I want them to understand the complexities of the reproductive issues in this state and remember that white, middle class women are not the only ones impacted.
As with its Mama’s Day campaign, Strong Families’ marking of Roe v. Wade has the incredible impact of furthering the conversations from just about “the right to an abortion” to a fuller–and far more fantastic–one of reproductive justice.