As the rest of the country is busy restricting safe and legal access to abortion with mandatory waiting periods, costly clinic restrictions and by targeting doctors, California has become a beacon for reproductive justice and health.
Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 154, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, which now authorizes trained Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) to provide first-trimester abortions under the terms of their licenses (these same providers can already offer abortion with medications). The governor also signed AB 980, which allows abortion facilities to meet the same standards as primary care clinics. With nearly half of California counties lacking an accessible abortion provider, these new laws will help alleviate challenges that many women in our communities face when trying to access abortion services.
Women in rural areas often have to travel long distances to obtain care. This can mean taking extra time off work and finding extended childcare. At the same time, community clinics in urban areas (particularly communities of color) are overburdened, with as many as 1 provider to 2,000 patients in some areas. Women who need an abortion might have to wait a week or longer to get an appointment and then still might spend all day waiting to be seen. Again, this means taking more time off work or studies. Delays can complicate risk and second trimester procedures can be more cost-prohibitive for many poor and uninsured Black women and Latin@s.
And while there’s still a common misconception that abortion is a white woman’s issue, these new laws are particularly important wins for communities of color.
By Andrea Plaid
I knew I was “pro-choice” since about the age of ten. I remember watching the nightly news at my aunt’s house (this was in the late 70s), and there was a segment on about the abortion debates. I don’t remember the images, just the words, “a woman has the right to bring a child into the world.” I thought no truer words were spoken and, thus–with some permutations, like understanding the nuances of “pro-choice/pro-reproductive rights” and “reproductive justice” and moving my thinking toward the latter–I’ve stayed in that stance ever since.
And–yowza!–I remember conversations my mom and I would have about it throughout my ‘tween and teen years. I told my mom–she was the only grown person I could talk to about this–that I wasn’t going to have kids, full stop, and would seek an abortion if necessary in order to remain childless. (I thought my love life at that time would consist of a series of lovers, none of whom I knew I wouldn’t want to be attached to via a child. A husband? Yeah, perhaps, but I thought the lovers thing sounded infinitely sexier in my head.) Mom wasn’t hearing any of this. And her trump card in this argument? “Only white women kill their children. We”–meaning Black women–”don’t do those things.” I didn’t know how to argue against respectability politics then. I just knew that it wasn’t going to by my life, dammit.
And I knew not every Black woman believed what my mom believed about abortion and its role in our lives.
So, imagine my joy when I saw Faye Wattleton.
By Arturo R. García
The latest campaign, headed by The Radiance Foundation has “no political reason at all,” according to chief creative officer Ryan Bomberger. However, the new billboards – which say “The 13th Amendment freed us. Abortion enslaves us” – was timed to coincide with Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of U.S. slaves Bomberger told The Huffington Post:
“When you look at what abortion has brought to the black community, it can’t be typified to anything other than present-day slavery. Roe v. Wade used the 14th Amendment–which finally gave humanity to African Americans—and contorted it to give someone the right to kill an unborn child. It’s just like slavery, because you have a class of people who are considered less than human, and therefore they can be treated like property.”
By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid
I met filmmaker Faith Pennick when I lived and went to school in Boston. At the time she was promoting her film, Silent Choices. I traveled to the Big Apple to interview her for my now-defunct ‘zine when the Republicans decided to hold their convention and several New Yorkers weren’t having it. Just on the passion for her flick, I even tried to host a viewing/fundraiser for it. As people and life go, we lost touch.
Forward several years and my move to New York City. I reunited with Faith the other night at the full meeting of the reproductive-justice organization SisterSong NYC. Faith announced to the group her award-winning film is getting a free showing online today.
Her film addresses a rarely covered topic: Black women discussing their own experiences with getting abortions (trigger warning):
I can’t recommend Silence Choices highly enough, especially in light of how others are trying to dictate how Black women should feel about exercising our reproductive rights and are trying their damnedest to make sure we don’t have access to reproductive options. But just don’t take my word for it. This is what Professor Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body, has to say about the documentary: “Silent Choices explores not only black women’s personal and political struggles around reproductive freedom, but also the complexities of abortion too often ignored by the mainstream media. Silent Choices is essential viewing for students, scholars, and activists interested in reproductive justice for all women.”
For more information about Faith, her work, and more on Silent Choices, click here.
by Latoya Peterson
This past Sunday was mother’s day in the United States.
However, we all know all mothers are not seen as equal. In our increasingly charged political climate, a lot of mothers are being blamed for the ills of society. Immigrant mothers are scapegoated, working mothers are ignored, low-income mothers are demonized, and single mothers have been painted as the downfall of society for decades now. Much of our public policy and national debate is based on a rhetoric of shaming, instead of trying to figure out how we support families and create an environment where mothers and children can thrive.
This Mother’s Day, we will be commemorating Mama’s Day: a celebration of the mothers in our lives who are often overlooked during traditional Mother’s Day conversations. In particular, we want to give love to those mamas who are immigrants, single, young, queer or low-income. We know these mamas are often at the core of our families and communities, but are often overlooked or worse — they are scapegoated by policy-makers and right-wing conservatives. Watch the stories unfold on our blog. Download this image and others like it here.
To celebrate, we will be holding a series of actions and events including parties, marches, blogging, a congressional briefing and the release of an original Mama’s Day music video.
Mother’s Day began as a call to action by mothers to protect their families from the violence that was engulfing the country. In that tradition, members of Strong Families and our friends are celebrating the many mamas around us. But we know that celebration is not enough. We will also be working for recognition, rights and resources for the mamas and families in our lives.
Music video is below, lyrics are here:
Mama’s Day is important because this is reproductive justice in action – honoring different life choices and providing a world where we look to help, not shame or stigmatize. Because we all benefit from a society that invests in its citizens.
By Guest Contributor Miriam Pérez, originally published at RH Reality Check
This article is part of a series appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include those by Pamela Merrit, Gloria Feldt, Kelley Robinson, and Maame-Mensima Horne.
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.
Women of color within the reproductive rights and justice movement have brought light to the policies (often perpetuated by our own government, medical providers and researchers) that serve the mission of population control within our communities. We’ve fought back against the connections and alliances with those in the environmental rights movement who blame the challenges of resource scarcity on women of color and their family size.
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
In the Latina community, we’ve dealt with all sorts of attempts at controlling our families. In addition to welfare family caps and abusive immigration policies, we’ve also got a long history of sterilization abuse. The height of this was in the 1970s, when Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and others discovered that doctors and residents at a Los Angeles hospital had sterilized hundreds of Mexican women, without their knowledge or full consent. We’re talking women being asked to sign consent forms in languages they did not speak, being lied to and told that the procedure was reversible, or being offered sterilization in the midst of labor.
The result of this was a major organizing push by CESA—Committee to End Sterilization Abuse–to enact federal informed consent laws for sterilization. They won, and in 1976 these laws were enacted, mandating processes for informed consent, waiting periods for sterilization consent, and forms that had to be in the patient’s language, among other things.
By Guest Contributor Pamela Merritt, originally posted at RH Reality Check
Just days before the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, a fellow activist sent me a link to a video posted by the anti-choice group Bound for Life. I was vaguely familiar with Bound for Life from having seen their members at protests, signature red tape marked with the word “Life” fixed to their mouths.
The video promoted an action that Bound for Life participated in at a new Planned Parenthood clinic being built in Houston. The spin for this specific protest caught my attention. The angle – that reproductive health care providers are organized to increase abortions by people of color in a plot to commit genocide for profit – has been in play by anti-choicers for years. That theory has been, is now, and will always be insultingly paternalistic in its assumptions about women of color seeking reproductive health care. The allegation is also picking up steam this Black History Month.
The first time I watched the video I was struck by the theories promoted through it – that communities of color are tragically ignorant of some long standing genocidal plot and desperately need organizations like Bound for Life to come to educate us, that the size of a reproductive health care clinic is in some way connected to it’s intended scale of abortion services and that the location of that clinic (in communities of color) is proof of some long standing genocidal plot. Bound for Life isn’t alone in putting forth these arguments. Anti-choice groups recently put up billboards in Georgia claiming that Black children are an endangered species and other organizations, like The Radiance Foundation, target religious people of color with the same anti-choice message; their stated goal being to illuminate, educate and motivate their audience.
The fallout from this rhetoric is hard to measure, but I’ve heard of the black genocide conspiracy for years. I am an activist in my home city of St. Louis Missouri and many of the young women of color I work with are aware of the rumors and ask questions about them.