During ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice…
House Judicial Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice
Hearing on H.R. 4924
Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2016
Written Testimony from Black Women Reproductive Justice Organizations
April 14, 2016
We write to you in one voice on behalf of Reproductive Justice for Black women, immigrant women, young women and low-income women. We, the undersigned organizations, write to state for the record that we are adamantly opposed to the proposed Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 4924.
This legislation, as with similar federal legislation introduced in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013 , is a blatant attempt to limit abortion access and is an affront to Black women’s right to decide what is best for us and our families.
Since it was first proposed in 2008 it has served as a blueprint for states to introduce “race- and sex-selection” abortion bans. As of March 2016 eight states ban abortions for reason of sex selection, one state prohibits abortions for reasons of race, and one state prohibits abortions when the fetus may have a genetic anomaly. The attack on abortion continues at all levels, and is relentless and strategic.
PRENDA purports to support gender and civil rights but that is false. In actuality it is baseless, as there is no evidence to support the assertion that Black women have more abortions as a result of racial preferences. And, this ongoing attempt by politicians or anti-choice advocates to co-opt the civil rights movement on the backs of Black women is offensive.
In actuality the higher abortion rates among Black women can be attributed to unintended pregnancies due to, among other things, barriers to effective contraceptives and comprehensive sex education that includes pregnancy prevention. No one can know all the reasons a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy. This legislation seeks to define “acceptable “ and “unacceptable” reasons for having an abortion. And undermines the legal right a woman has to make that decision for herself.
Additionally, this legislation perpetuates hurtful racial stereotypes about Black women. The implication is that we are incapable of making “right” and “sound moral” reproductive health decisions. The inference of this and similarly written legislation is an affront to the many Black women of faith who choose and support access to safe and legal abortions as a necessary healthcare option for themselves and all women.
Unlike the speakers, we TRUST Black women to make the important personal decisions about abortion that are right for themselves and their families. In fact, when asked if they agreed with the statement “When it comes to abortion, we should trust Black women to make the important personal decisions that are best for themselves and their families” 85 percent said yes. And 89 percent agreed with the statement “Every person’s case is different and very private and personal, so we should leave decisions about abortion up to the individual woman.” This agreement cut across age, education and religious affiliation.
This proposed legislation puts the health and wellbeing of Black women and all women at risk by interfering with the patient-provider relationship. Getting quality health care is based on a trust relationship between a patient and her healthcare provider. This ban interferes with that trust. For fear of criminal prosecution doctors would be put in the position of interrogating and passing judgment as to a woman’s motivation for accessing reproductive health services. “No woman should ever be scrutinized based on her racial or ethnic background, but this is exactly what these bans encourage.”
We have seen these tactics before, in the form of billboards vilifying Black women as dangerous to our own children. Used in an attempt to drive a wedge between Black women and the Black communities across the country on the issue of abortion rights, their tactics failed. In fact, their efforts had the opposite impact – galvanizing Black women, Black men and civil rights organizations to stand together in opposition to these racist billboards.
As in the past, we stand united to represent and speak to the rights of Black women and women of color to make the reproductive choices that are best for them with dignity and self-determination.
We stand firm in our opposition to PRENDA and urge Members of Congress to voice their opposition as well.
Access Reproductive Care-Southeast (ARC-Southeast)
The Afiya Center
Black Women for Wellness
Black Women’s Health Imperative
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
New Voices for Reproductive Justice
SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective
SPARK Reproductive Justice Now
Trust Black Women
Women With A Vision
— National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Press Release, “Race and Sex Selection” Abortion Bans: Misleading and Harmful, http://latinainstitute.org/sites/default/files/NLIRH_PRENDA_FactSheet_Eng_R10.pdf. March 2015.  Guttmacher Institute. State Policies in Brief, Abortion Bans in Cases of Sex or Race Selection or Genetic Anomaly, https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/spibs/spib_SRSGAAB.pdf. March 2016.  In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Fact Sheet: Contraceptive Equity, http://blackrj.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Contraceptive-EquityFS.pdf. September 2015.  African-American Attitudes on Abortion, Contraception, and Teen Sexual Health (2013). Belden-Russonello Strategists LLC., Washington DC. February 2013. http://blackrj.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/media-memo.pdf.  National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. Issue Brief, Race and Sex Selective Abortion Bans: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, https://napawf.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/PRENDAIssueBrief_8.5_Final.pdf. July 2013.  SisterSong Reproductive Justice Collective. Policy Report, Race, Gender and Abortion: How Reproductive Justice Activists Won in Georgia, http://www.trustblackwomen.org/SisterSong_Policy_Report.pdf. October 2010