Reproductive Justice: Supporting Black and Brown Communities on the Frontlines
By Arianna Genis
Deputy Communications Director, re:power
“ Reproductive Justice as a social justice movement is rooted in the belief that individuals and communities should have the resources and power to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about their bodies, genders, sexualities, and lives. It is also pro-sex, sexuality, gender, queer bodies; pro-access to abortion and contraception; birth rights and chosen families.”
— Spark Reproductive Justice Now
With each passing day, attacks on abortion rights are becoming more frequent and extreme. Within the last few years, six states — Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, and North Dakota — have passed “heartbeat” bills. This is a code word for abortion bans that begin six weeks into pregnancy. In the last three months, three of those abortion bans were passed.
Regardless of whether or not the laws haven’t become enacted, the possibility of this new reality is alarming.
Every women and trans person, all of us, are impacted by legislation that’s criminalizing abortion and set on stripping people of their autonomy and reproductive freedom. It affects families, parents, individuals, our economy, our social fabric, and so much more. We all suffer when entire communities are denied their humanity and access to resources to make the best choices for themselves.
But let’s be clear: the bans will not stop abortions from happening. They will only ensure that some groups — specifically, people of color and poor people — carry the weight of the punishment. People of color and poor communities have faced a long history of attacks on their reproductive freedom, well before the abortion bans, due to our country’s history of racism and discrimination, including but not limited to:
- Whether it be living in poverty at higher rates;
- having less access to affordable healthcare and contraception (2);
- enduring more extreme forms of attacks;
- coerced sterilization (3);
- experiencing systemic discrimination in prenatal care (4);
- being shackled while giving birth if you’re a women who’s incarcerated when pregnant (5).
People of color and poor communities have always fought for reproductive justice: it’s been necessity to survive and thrive. Black women, indigenous women, women of color, and queer and trans folks are the face of this movement.
At re:power, we are committed to supporting the work led by the black and brown women and queer and trans folks in the frontlines of the reproductive justice movement. We have made a commitment to support their critical movement-building efforts at the state level.
Over the past year, we’ve worked with Amplify Georgia, a coalition of organizations working toward reproductive justice. The coalition (composed of providers, reproductive justice organizations, abortion fund networks, and grassroots organizations) works to educate their communities on the value of abortion and its connection to other important issues: economic security, education and healthcare.
In our work with Amplify GA, we supported them through a strategic planning process for their state-based campaign, which was focused on protecting abortion at a local level.
In our time together, we:
- Sharpened their organizing strategies and base building skills through customized training
- Strengthened their grassroots lobbying work through facilitated strategy sessions
- Created space for them to nourish their creative and bold ideas that became visions
Most importantly, we pushed them to vision boldly and beyond the current climate. While they knew Gov. Brian Kemp would most likely sign the “heartbeat” bill headed to his desk (and he did in early May), they kept course, and we followed their lead.
Right now, Amplify GA will continue to move forward on their campaign, adding capacity to their organizing and expanding across the state. We plan to continue supporting them on the frontlines.
Our communities need investment and support no matter the circumstances. To us, this work is part of how we fight for and imagine for a different political reality. The leaders of Amplify GA understand what’s at stake more than anyone else; it’s on us to support the efforts of their leadership.
A Brief History of RJ
Today, after years of its existence, the term reproductive justice is being used in mainstream news and by reproductive rights organizations — we even have Democratic presidential candidates using it in conversations. The devastating reality we’re living in, with abortion bans spreading across the country and more, is forcing people to look for an expansive framework that explains what’s at stake.
Folks are coalescing around the topic of reproductive justice, and pushing for a sharper and more nuanced intersectional framework.
Reproductive justice as a term was coined in 1994 by a group of Queer Black women who saw the limitations of the women’s rights movement, given its narrow focus on the needs of white, middle-class women. As a response, they set out to build a national movement that centered the needs of the most marginalized women, families, and communities. The women named themselves Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, and RJ was born. Reproductive justice is rooted in in a framework of international human rights and intersectionality. (6)
Reproductive justice as a platform and concept has been around for a while, and we are glad to see it enter mainstream conversations. We want to make sure its framework continues to recognize the communities who’ve always been at the forefront on the ground and who will be impacted the most by these bans.
A few weeks ago the Groundswell Fund put out a statement: “Today, we’re calling on foundations, donors, and national organizations to fight against these attacks by funding and following the lead of Black and Brown women-led grassroots organizations in impacted states. This is the leadership that is fighting year-round to protect abortion access within the larger critical battle for the right to bodily autonomy. With the right resources, no other leadership is better positioned to hold public officials accountable and protect the freedom of all people.”(7)
We couldn’t agree more. Please support Amplify GA, and other grassroots organizations lead by black and brown folks living in states where abortion bans have passed. More info here:
- Amplify Georgia
- Spark Reproductive Justice Now
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
- National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
- Native American Health Resource Education Center
Want to know more about what we’re up to in the world? Tweet at us at @repowerorg, and follow along as we come to a city near you!