Statement of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO…
Here we go again. This week, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade, U.S. House Republican leadership will send a bill to the floor for vote that is meant to restrict a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion care. HR. 7 flies in the face of the reality that federal insurance coverage of abortion is already restricted.
We can’t imagine a sadder and laughable preoccupation than the one the Republican congress has with women’s decisions about their bodies and pregnancies. One has to wonder whose lives they are so invested in saving, when so many of their actions limit a woman’s ability to choose to live a healthy life: 50 votes to repeal the ACA, opposition to the Women’s Equal Pay Act, and support for state TRAP laws which make it nearly impossible to receive needed abortion care.
The federal preoccupation with women’s reproductive systems pervades Republican controlled state legislatures as well. 14 states have instituted the same 20-week abortion ban Congress originally sought to pass today, but lost support for within their own caucus just hours before a scheduled vote. Yet, states continue to try to pass laws harkening back pre-Roe days, meant to control women’s reproductive rights, asserting a paternalistic view that they know better than women what should be done with their bodies. Black women have a long and unfortunate history of being subject to this kind of control. Only Black women have been told that their wombs are dangerous!
The vote also coincides with the annual March for Life, an event led by anti-abortion advocates. Where are these advocates and their cries to respect life when law enforcement officers or private citizens kill innocent young black women and men women? Why are their voices silent when Black mothers everywhere agonize over the fact that their children’s lives are seen as disposable and without value? In these instances, someone other than the mother made the choice and a child’s life ended. How is that for irony in the choice debate?
A poll conducted by the Black Women’s Health Imperative in 2012 found that 80 percent of respondents felt abortion should remain accessible and legal. 9 in 10 said that while no one can know the personal and medical reasons for accessing abortion, every case is different and every woman should be trusted to make the best choice for herself and her family—the operative word in this finding: choice.
Unfortunately on this recognition of the Roe decision, some in Congress are still set on denying choice and exerting their will on America’s women. Instead of trying to regulate reproduction, we wish Congress would focus on passing laws that enable every mother to raise her children in a healthy and safe environment, to receive equal pay for equal work, to have living wage jobs and to have access to quality, affordable childcare. These laws would actually empower a woman to choose what some so desperately want to regulate – life – hers and her children’s.