This February GRRs around the country are celebrating Black History Month. Too often the role of black women in the fight to protect reproductive rights has been invisible, even within the framework of Black History Month. Many older generations like mine aren’t entirely familiar with the term intersectionality as it is applied today to reproductive rights and feminism. When our granddaughters and daughters talk about intersectionality they mean looking at an issue through a lens that integrates the impacts of race, class, gender and sexual identity on each individual and community. We are never too old to learn and adjust how we look at the world.
We celebrate black women in our movement today, and in our past, who lead/led the way to reproductive justice for all women. Since the days of slavery, black women have fought for the right to determine whether or not to have a child. They saw that making abortion legal was not enough. As Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Black women in the movement recognized early on that “choice” must include access. Without access to basic healthcare and pregnancy options, without the opportunity to raise their children in safety, communities of color cannot fulfill their right to choose. Consequently, women in the black community were the first to create a term that fully links access to sexual and reproductive health care to social and economic justice. Sister Song first introduced the official term in 2003. Loretta Ross explains that “Reproductive justice is, in essence, an intersectional theory emerging from the experiences of women of color whose multiple communities experience a complex set of reproductive oppressions.” Reproductive justice incorporates the economic, social and health factors that affect all women’s reproductive choices and decision-making ability.
Reproductive Justice (n) – is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.
While marginalization has not prevented black women from speaking out, it is the job of white women in the movement to lift their voices up. In recent decades, black women have risen to lead the rest of us in the struggle for our bodies, our children, and even our lives. All women in the movement should embrace this intersectional approach and leadership, as we fight for reproductive justice for all women and men, all girls and boys. Our future depends on it.