Excerpted from Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology, “Hip-Hop Feminism at the Political Crossroads: Organizing for Reproductive Justice and Beyond”
During discussions with other women of color about reproductive rights, sometimes I am confronted by a sista who insists that women of color have not been actively involved in the contemporary women’s movement or the reproductive rights movement, much less have been leaders in these movements. That is simply not true. Although the media may have promoted a select group of prominent white women as the faces of American feminism and reproductive rights, African American, Latina, Asian American and Native American women have a long history of being tireless advocates for abortion and reproductive freedom. It is a little known and under-documented history.
In 1969, for instance, flamboyant lawyer and activist Florynce “Flo” Kennedy was part of a team of lawyers retained by the Women’s Health Collective and 350 female plaintiffs to repeal New York State’s abortion law. That court case was a precursor to the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. Many of the earlier black feminist organizations, such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the Third World Women’s Alliance, advocated for abortion and reproductive rights. The late Shirley Chisholm was a strong advocate for abortion rights and was an early president of NARAL (then called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.) She argued,
To label family planning and legal abortion programs as ‘genocide’ is male rhetoric for male ears. It falls flat to female listeners, and to thoughtful male ones. Women know, and do so many men, that two or three children who are wanted, prepared for, reared among love and stability, and educated to the limit of their ability will mean more for the future of the black and brown races from which they come than any number of neglected, hungry, ill-housed, and ill-clothed youngsters. Pride in one’s race, as well as simple humanity, supports this view. (Chisholm 1995, p.391)