As a part of Government Affairs’ webinar series, this month, we hosted Reproductive Justice Polling in the South: What Black Women Think in Tennessee and Mississippi in partnership with our partner organization SisterReach and featured speakers: Marcela Howell, Founder & CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Cherisse Scott, Founder & CEO, SisterReach, Tennessee State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-29), , Cassandra Welchilin, Co-convener and State Lead of Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable and Moderator, Israel Cook, SisterReach Policy Fellow.
This webinar highlighted polling data of Black women in the Deep South and their experiences related to parenting, reproductive decision-making, and abortion access. Panelists discussed related key issues facing the Black community in Tennessee and Mississippi including fighting a 6-week abortion ban, violence against the Black Trans community, the striking wage gap, and barriers to healthcare for LGBTQ+ people. Click here to watch the webinar.
We also hosted Maternal Health, Climate Change and Birth Outcomes: Environmental and Reproductive Justice Intersections, a collaboration between In Our Own Voice, our partner organization Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Human Rights Watch.
In addition to myself, speakers included Linda Goler Blount, CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative, Charo Valero, Florida State Policy Director of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Dr. Rupa Basu, Chief of Air and Climate Epidemiology Section at Cal EPA/OEHHA and Dr. Ana Bonell, Medical Research Council Gambia and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. RJ leaders contextualized the connection between climate change and maternal health within the broader Reproductive and Environmental Justice movements and discussed why action at multiple levels is urgent and necessary, particularly in the context of COVID-19 and rampant police violence, which exacerbate environmental and maternal health threats.
Calls to action included raising awareness about the impact of heat on pregnancy health, building cross-movement coalition and interventions with communities most impacted, establishing a federal standard to protect all outdoor workers from exposure to dangerous, increasing heat as well as advancing legislation at the state and national levels to combat maternal health disparities, environmental racism, and workplace environments that are not accommodating to pregnant people.
Examples of key legislation raised by panelists to combat this crisis include:
- The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, which includes The Social Determinants for Moms Act
- HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act
- Health Equity and Accountability Act
You can watch the webinar here: (password: *WRD*0619*HRW*)
This webinar was highlighted by Scientific American where Linda Blount was quoted: “Stress caused from racial discrimination literally changes a woman’s inflammatory and metabolic response. This raises the risk for chronic disease, obesity, maternal mortality and low birth weight babies…Race is not a risk factor. Racism is a risk factor. And now we add a new stressor to that intersection: climate, specifically heat.”
To learn more about this topic, you can also check out this recent article published by the New York Times.
In the aftermath of rampant state sanctioned violence nationally, Black RJ policy and advocacy leaders also collaborated to demonstrate solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and raise a set of demands for local elected leaders. Demands include: creating units of mental health providers, therapists and other practitioners to meet with protesters and impacted communities instead of police or military force, and demanding local elected officials present steps to address racism, sexism and gender-based violence within the criminal legal system, including police reforms.
Read the full statement published in Essence magazine.