Y’all I’m tired. I’m tired of white supremacy and patriarchy. I’m tired of the systems that police, control and murder Black trans women. I’m tired of the systems that allow Breonna Taylor to be murdered in her home while her killers are allowed to roam free. I’m tired of the systems that built a faulty health care infrastructure that allows Black women to die in childbirth and Black people to die of COVID-19 at three times the rate of white people. I’m tired of entertainers like Kanye West, who continues to spread propaganda by anti-abortion groups for his political agenda. I’m tired of anti-abortion activists who claim abortion is Black genocide. I’m tired of Black women’s decisions about our bodies being policed.
This country was built on the backs of Black people and the genocide of Indigenous people. White slave owners controlled Black women’s lives and used the labor of generations over 400 years to build the economic engine that still powers this country. The “father of modern gynecology,” J. Marion Sims, was a slave owner who conducted experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. Black women—along with immigrants, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and poor people–were forcibly sterilized by federally-funded programs in 32 states.
Police murders, the racially biased treatment of Black women in labor, abortion restrictions are all acts of violence. As Black women, we are not safe from policing in our homes, in doctor’s offices or in schools. We are not trusted or supported to make decisions for ourselves and our families. We still have to defend our right to have an abortion to the rest of the world. Anti-abortion organizations have attempted to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement to shame Black women, shouting Black Lives Matter slogans outside of Planned Parenthood health centers, even erroneously using the denouncement of our founder’s racist and ablest beliefs as validation for their false logic. The idea of “Black genocide” by abortion is rooted in the continuation of the reproductive oppression of Black women. This idea exploits our communities’ very real history of medical mistreatment and infantilizes Black women.
Black women’s decisions about our reproductive health boil down to damned if we do, damned if we don’t. We are told we can only have children if we “can afford it”—otherwise we’re “welfare queens,” demonized by conservatives as drains on society (meanwhile corporations and the rich squeeze our labor and natural resources to depletion, taking billions in tax breaks). There is no support for mothers: no mandated paid maternity leave, no affordable childcare, states that still haven’t expanded Medicaid, and an administration still trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act — in the middle of a pandemic. Black women are dying bringing children into this world. Our children are thrown in jail or shot by police and denied the chance to experience the full humanity that white children expect as their birthright.
We’re also vilified and shamed when we make a decision to terminate a pregnancy. Under the guise of caring about life, conservatives are forcing us to walk through protestors—or to drive hundreds of miles to the few-and-far-between health centers that have survived regulation after regulation from state politicians opposed to safe and legal abortion. Because America exploited our labor, denying us education and opportunities to accumulate wealth for centuries, 25% of Black women rely on Medicaid for health care. Due to the Hyde Amendment, the federal government bars those of us who rely on Medicaid from using federal tax dollars to pay for an abortion. They do not care about our lives.
But we do. We are full human beings, capable of making our own decisions about our bodies, pregnancies, and our lives. It’s long past time for the world to recognize it, and support it.
To some, this argument might sound radical, but it’s not new. The Reproductive Justice movement is the essence of how theories of Black feminism and intersectionality become practice. It’s about protecting and advancing Black people’s ability to fully make our own reproductive decisions: to parent, to not parent, and to raise our children in safe and thriving communities. The Reproductive Justice Movement has long been ahead of traditional reproductive rights organizations in declaring that bodily autonomy and access to reproductive health care are human rights.
Because the war against white supremacy is fought on Black women’s bodies, we stand unapologetically at the forefront of movements—whether it’s for reproductive freedom or for Black liberation. We organize, we create resource after resource, we march to exhaustion, we cry and we comfort and we bring joy. Trust us, stand with us—or get out of our way.
And one more time for the people in the back: Stop telling us what to do with our bodies.
Nia Eshu Martin-Robinson is the Director of Black Leadership and Engagement at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Nia’s professional focus is centered around reproductive health, rights and justice. In her role, she works to build a collective strategy and vision for Black work at the organization.
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