Reproductive Justice Beyond Roe
Written by Danielle Slaughter
Often times when we talk about attacks on women’s reproductive choices we focus exclusively on their right to have a child or not, specifically, access to birth control and safe abortions. This conversation has been intensified lately as several states across America have passed “heartbeat” laws, which ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Add in the popular Hulu show, The Handmaid’s Tale, and everyone is in a panic at the idea of being forced to have children. And by everyone, I mean, white women because let’s be honest, Black women lived The Handmaid’s Tale long before Margaret Atwood wrote the novel that is now a television series. Our bodies were not our own for centuries and our children were stolen from us in order to “make America great.”
It’s why I’m hoping to remind everyone that when we talk about reproductive rights we have to focus on more than Roe v Wade. This is not the first time this conversation has presented itself. During the women’s rights movement, a group of Black women met in Chicago (June 1994) to discuss how they could uplift the voices of the most marginalized women when it came to reproductive choices. It was at that meeting that the term we now know as reproductive justice was born.
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines reproductive justice as
“(1) The human right to not have a child; (2) The human right to have a child; and (3) The human right to parent in safe and healthy environments.”
Forcing people to birth children into a world that will treat them as less than them, simply because of the color of their skin, is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a society that uses school data to build prisons is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth girl children into a world that views them as inferior based solely on their gender is not safe or healthy
Forcing people to birth children into a society that will then force those very same children into gender roles and identity is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a world that assumes wearing a hoodie and listening to loud rap music makes you a threat is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a society that asks girls what they were wearing when they were assaulted is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a society that will imprison parents for lying about their address in order to give them a better education is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a country that shoots first and finds cell phones second is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a country where their citizenship can be questioned simply because they are Brown or speak a language other than English is not safe or healthy.
Forcing people to birth children into a country that imprisons parents on their children’s first day of school is not safe or healthy.
So, as you’re marching on the capital and yelling about keeping the government out of your uterus, you might want to remember that reproductive justice is about more than your right to terminate a pregnancy in a healthy manner. It’s about more than your right to birth control and the morning-after pill.
It’s also about fighting for Black and Brown people to have the right to see their children actually grow up. It’s about fighting for Black and Brown people having the right to hold their employers accountable without fear of retribution. It’s about fighting for Black and Brown people having the right to seek asylum without being placed into a cage and having their children stolen from them.
About the Author: Danielle is a Doctoral student (on hiatus) in the Rhetoric and Composition program at Georgia State University. She has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and Georgia State, respectively. She is a Detroit native currently residing in Atlanta with her husband, two sons, and their pet turtle. Danielle is passionate about the intersections of parenting and social justice. She shares her experiences navigating motherhood while finding her place in the academy on her website, Mamademics. Danielle currently serves as the Leadership Development Coordinator for Mothering Justice, where acts as the lead facilitator for Mamas' University, an online fellowship focused on helping moms of color learn to advocate for their family and themselves.