Abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court, Jackson Women's Health v. Dobbs. Photo credit: Shala W. Graham
Abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court, Jackson Women's Health v. Dobbs. Photo credit: Shala W. Graham

It is no secret that our institutions and health care systems have long failed Black people. We see this in the sky-high rates of Black maternal death, infant mortality, and poor health outcomes across the board. And now, we await one of the most consequential Supreme Court rulings that could push one of our health care options entirely out of reach for Black communities across the country. Access to abortion is deeply connected to the health and economic security for individuals and families. Now is the time for bold action so that the Supreme Court does not deny another of our rights.
 
Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land, and while abortion remains legal in all 50 states, it has never been widely accessible for Black communities, especially those of us working to make ends meet. In 2021 alone, 108 abortion restrictions were enacted, with the impact falling hardest on Black and Brown people. For decades anti-abortion lobbyists and politicians have actively worked against us by denying us the agency to determine and control our futures. The ugly truth is that abortion bans are rooted in white supremacy and anti-Black racism, and are, by design, crafted to harm Black people. Bans are not about protecting our mothers, children, and communities, but further controlling, marginalizing, and disempowering us. Throughout much of its history, the mainstream feminist movement ignored the needs of Black communities. In 1994, Black activists responded to this by creating a visionary framework — reproductive justice — which is defined as “the human right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work and our reproduction – the right to have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and healthy communities.”
 
While activists of color have historically practiced reproductive justice through our grassroots organizing, campaigns, and broader social justice work, naming it has helped further focus on the needs of our communities as mainstream leaders have failed to recognize the unique challenges that Black women in particular face when trying to obtain abortion care. Whether it’s traveling long distances because abortion is not accessible in our communities, the inability to pay for abortion care, or facing racism from health care providers who are not invested in supporting our health and well-being, the consequences are steep. Abortion justice is only one part of our liberation, and we must view it within the wider context of racial, economic, and environmental justice.
 
The same challenges that prevent people from accessing other vital services also arise when people need an abortion. Abortion funds across the country have been a lifeline for countless communities as they help eliminate the geographic, financial, and other barriers to accessing care, but this should not be our reality when abortion is legal in all 50 states. As other states move to pass copycat bills modeled after Texas’ 6-week abortion ban, we need to urgently change course.
 
Abortion is rooted in freedom. When abortion is available and affordable, we are more able to make our own decisions about whether and when to start or expand our families. This gives us the opportunity to make important decisions about our health, to care for our families, to pursue our dreams, and to live in thriving communities. When abortion is accessible, we see its positive impact for generations, but when it is pushed out of reach, it causes irreparable harm to the emotional, financial, and physical health of those who are forced to carry a pregnancy against their will.
 
Even If the Supreme Court upholds Roe later this year, it will still not be enough. From the grassroots activism on the ground to the politicians making decisions about what we can and cannot do with our bodies, this is why we need to support efforts to ensure all people have real access to abortion. Abortion care that is covered by insurance, that is nearby, and without unnecessary waits, or asking neighbors to spy on us, or any other efforts to interfere with our decisions. In short, access to abortion care, just as other health care, should not depend on where we live or who sits in power in our state capitals.
 
Black women have always been visionary leaders at the helm of all forms of social justice in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. We have fought for a better, brighter future because we know it is our birthright. This is why we continue to demand that our elected officials do more for us — to make abortion accessible and affordable to all who need it. Abortion access is about much more than our legal rights; it is about our humanity, dignity, and freedom — and we deserve to be free.
 
Marcela Howell is president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Follow her work on social media at @BlackWomensRJ.

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41 Comments

  1. It’s no secret that our health care institutions have failed Black Women. Really? Says who? Most out comes that turn out bad probably should be laid at the feet of the black women. Not taking care of themselves. Ignoring doctors advice. This article is nothing but the usual liberal BS.

    1. Typical male comment who is not a black woman and has no frame of reference… just blind judgement and false accusations.

    2. Here you go, once again, blaming the victim, shooting the messenger. Where is emity, common sense, and just plain understanding of the dynamics involved as it pertains to the subject of abortions. Wake up, get woke.no doubt it’ll make you a better man.

    3. I’m pro-choice and always have been. It’s about freedom and personal liberty to me. However, this article treats abortion like an aspirin! It’s not cool to have an abortion. If it’s best for a woman at that time of her life, Then so be it. She should have safe access, but it’s not cool!

      1. Well women can”t just think that they. Can just jump. In the sack And screw without Taking precautions to stop a women from getting. Pregnant they have AIDS and medications to keep you from getting pregnant the taxpayers shouldn’t. Pay for your abortion. Making babies. Is not a game it is a HUMAN life. And the men who got you pregnant should pay to take care of that. BABY

      2. We don’t need more access to abortion, what we need is higher moral standards and less sexual promiscuity. Sex should be between a married man and woman.

    4. Allow me to apologize for Joseph. He is clearly unaware that abortion is central to the “healthcare” of all women who exercise their right to breed indiscriminately.

    5. As with many other issues in the black community….step up and stop blaming everyone else….your communities need to be took care of by YOU, you are handed far more tools than other communities, I cannot get snap, ebt, and medicaid..why..because I work instead of whine so I have no health insurance…but I do takecare of myself and have all the freedoms entitled to me. either, people do not chose to work and continue to add to the problems that truly only exist in your mind….

  2. Margaret Sanger couldn’t have made a better pitch for killing off the Black community and history knows that she tried.

  3. This has got to be one of the most ILLOGICAL articals I have ever read. The author seriously needs to look up words; such as , ‘justice’ and ‘dignity’ She also needs to seriously THINK about some of her statements ;such as, “access to abortion is deeply connected to health and economic security in individualss and families”………Excuse me? Unless that unborn child is going to be very sick or horribly physically or mentally challenged or there are life and death consequences to the mother, then please explain this statement! And you know what ? I am so sick and tired of every problem that black people have being blamed on racism. Maybe thats the way it was 50 or 60 years ago but its REALLY not that way anymore!! There isnt a racist bone in my body (ask my black friends) and its really starting to piss me off that everything gets put off on white people and racism!! Seriously, the only people thinking about you being black IS YOU! (And ok maybe a few uneducated, backwood , ignorant rednecks ) And please explain to me where in history murdering a helpless child has ever shown a “positive impact”? What about this childs birthriģht? Where is the justice for this child’s right to live ? If this were some ploy of white supremacy wouldn’t they be more than happy for you to kill off your own people through abortion or any other means necessary? Come on think people! Its NOT just black people! It’s a long way for white people to drive too. Our insurance doesn’t pay for abortion! And do you Mrs. Howell seriously believe that black people are the only ones “working to make ends meet”? I can promise you that there are white people ,lots of us, who are living hand to mouth! Please people get off this racism crap! The only people who sound like racists are black people these days! Nobody cares what color your skin is! I personally think black people are very beautiful! There’s nothing great about being white! What’s so great about being the color of the under belly of a fish! I can’t understand where people ever thought it was!! Anyway, thank you for allowing me to say my piece! God bless you! I wish you only good all the days of your life!!! Be free Mrs. Howell ! Be free!! I want that for all of us!! God bless the Ukraine!!!

    1. I am an Ukrainian women and was discriminated and harassed by whites, blacks, muslims and other color people . I have been castrated by US doctors who do not care which color I am but how much money they made. In this country people care only money.

    2. Wow! “I have black friends.” I am compelled to comment on this comment aside from the article.

      I would never use the term “I have white friends” to make a point on any conversation concerning the white race. It’s just a poor way of seeing things. Please rethink your future choice of words. (for your “black friends”)

      Actually, do us a solid. Read this article to your “black friends”, then follow up with reading out loud the comment you posted. Oh, don’t forget to tape it and come back and post that YouTube link. I’d love to click on it to hear their commentary.

      I’m sorry, but you can’t comment on the black race’s experience in America. You also don’t have the right (and never will have the right) to speak on the state of racism in this country towards black people. You see, the key to seeing the vast majority of these crimes (including crimes of humanity) requires you to be the victim or involved in the dissection of the crime itself. You can never qualify as the victim, but you CAN have a real conversation with your “black friends” to truly enlighten yourself and dissect the issue. (Note: You may get your feelings hurt if it gets REAL) Without diving head first into these types of conversations and want to truly sympathize with the victim, your experience would be limited to blatant acts as a bystander. It’s okay to have tough conversations. If you all are truly friends, they will open up to you about their life experiences.

      I’m not obsessed with racism as a black women, and I DEFINITELY do not use it as an excuse. I live with it and teach my children to care for themselves and their future families with its presence. I actually HATE that, but I NEED them to be smart, safe and aware of their circumstances and surroundings when being confronted with racism. I remember the first time I felt true racism. I was in the third grade (8 yrs. old), and it was in the 80’s. I also remember the last time I experienced racism. It was yesterday. (2022) No one wishes it would end more than me. That I can promise.

      Educate yourself and speak to your friends on this if you are truly interested.

      On this article: I don’t agree with her assessment on the role of white supremacist group support on black abortions. All and all, I believe it is the women’s right to make the decision.(the one pregnant that is) Sex and pregnancy happens in so many different ways around the world. We should step out of the guise that conception is only the result of two consenting adults having a good time. We should be smarter than that when commenting on this topic. Healthcare in America is a whole other topic!

  4. Here’s an idea. Quit having sex with everybody in sight without using birth control. The best form of birth control is self control. That goes for everybody.

    1. Here’s an idea, how about you learn about women’s health and sensitiv3 topics such as reproductive coercion and spousal/partner rape before you comment. Believe it or not, women are not just slags running around boring every dude they see.
      Many women don’t get to choose if and when they have sex. Sometimes, it is forced upon them, even in marriage.
      Many women are victims of reproductive coercion. This means that they partners sabotage their contraception, poke holes in condoms, remove condoms during intercourse, fail to tell her when he is about to orgasm, or in many cases, refuse to allow her to take birth control. I have talked 5o come women who have had partners pull out their IUD or throw away their bir5h control pills.

    2. So obvious, right? But to those .5 million aborted babies of color every year I guess ” Black Lives(don’t) Matter. Get some free birth control or as the POTUS says maybe they aren’t “smart enough” to use a computer or find birth control

    3. You said that right 100%. No matter. What color your skin is. Think of that HUMAN. LIFE you are literally torturing and killing. Just to as they say “getting Your rocks off” Sex. Is not a game. That is why our WELFARE ROLLS are so high. And most of your people in our Jails. Are blacks who don’t even know who their daddies are. that’s why there is so much crime and killings by the black race. Poor. Parental up bringing plus getting involved drugs. Look. How many blacks get killed. A day. In New York. Chcago

  5. People protesting perceived loss of 2nd amendment rights (note “perceived” loss), carry guns to intimidate people. Women should surround the Supreme Court, not just with signs, but with speculums. Giant reproductions of speculums. I mean, we are talking reality here, not just perception. This could work.

  6. I so disagree It’s finally time that they put a stop to the killing that has mostly affected only our race..the only ones who fell for the kool aid

  7. Ok, while I don’t agree with everything in this piece, how can you just dismiss this as ” usual liberal BS”? Your comment was written like a conservative that doesn’t want to be told what to do with their body ( no masks!)
    Yet, want to tell woman they need to have babies.. because that’s what he believes, nope to science, or female reproductive rights, but yes to an invisible god .
    Pick a side buddy!

  8. With so many heralding “the right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work and our reproduction”; Controlling one’s libido, instant sexual gratification should be added to the abortion narrative.

  9. To say banning abortions is part of white supremacy is literally the craziest crap I have ever heard. Wouldn’t white supremacist want more abortions for minorities or has that changed? The sad truth is the black community has been tricked into killing their own. Who needs white supremacist when mothers are walking into clinics willingly and killing their own.

    1. It is true. White people love trying to control black people. I think US history is full of examples.

  10. Wow, women have that legal right to an abortion. Then comes religion and their views that are being forced upon us. Next are the politicians that do anything for a vote.
    Skin color is irrelevant and getting old. It’s a woman’s right to an abortion, rich or poor, city or rural, black or white. Women have that right, and should not be gambled with (which has been done in some states). Plus it’s NO- bodies business but a women and her doctor what she does medically to her body.
    If states put limits on abortions, then those states should also give FREE Birth Control to all. Have a solution before they acted. Act in the interest of women/ the people, instead of needed votes and settling and satisfying their lobbist bribes.
    STOP ! punishing women for getting pregnant.

  11. “The ugly truth is that abortion bans are rooted in white supremacy and anti-Black racism, and are, by design, crafted to harm Black people.”

    “According to the Departments of Public Health of every state that reports abortion by ethnicity; black women disproportionately lead in the numbers. For example, in Mississippi, 79 percent of abortions are obtained by black women; in Washington, D.C., more than 60 percent; in Georgia, 59.4 percent; in Alabama, 58.4 percent. In state after state, similar numbers are found, with black women aborting at two, three or more times their presence in the population. At every income level, black women have higher abortion rates than Whites or Hispanics, except for women below the poverty line, where Hispanic women have slightly higher rates than black women.”
    https://docs.house.gov/meetings/JU/JU10/20171101/106562/HHRG-115-JU10-Wstate-ParkerS-20171101-SD001.pdf

    1. Scott your comment makes no sense an within your own text your kinda contradictory! Your statements on all these states where black women have much higher abortion rates but somehow you blamed this on white people! Why not blame it on their partners who don’t stand up an man up by taking care of their responsibilities by being an active father so all these woman DON’T HAVE TO HAVE AN ABORTION IN THE FIRST PLACE!

  12. Great article, sister. You know it is good when you bring all of the anti-choic3, victim blaming trolls out to the comment section.
    Reproductive choice is important and must be protected at all costs.
    Many of these “pro-birth” same lawmakers are also trying to remove access to contraception.

  13. Denise, I don’t really think people rebelling in the comments is a sign the author is right. It’s a sign people disagree with her, which in turn is a sign she’s wrong. And indeed she is wrong.

  14. I strongly support black women however; black women should also consider that since Roe v Wade your choices have resulted in the loss of over 5million voices- black voices.

  15. I am not black but I am a woman, so I will comment. The woman who wrote this article seriously needs to read some history. Abortion was designed to be used as ethnic genocide against non white people in America by a woman named Sanger. She was a rascist to her core and wanted a way to eliminate the black population. Her solution was stopping reproduction, which is why the black population has stagnated below 16% in our country for decades. Abortion wasnt designed around freedom, but control. Second, more black babies are aborted each year than born alive. How is this helping anyone? How many genuises have black women been conned into killing by white supremacists trying to destroy black communties? Third, black women, all women really but we focus on the article, have free and easy access to numerous forms of contraception before abortion is needed. There should be personal responsibilty over your reproduction. That is true freedom.

  16. White supremacy you say? Wouldn’t white supremacists want more black abortions? Remember, it was a white woman, Margaret Sanger, who helped start Planned Parenthood in essentially Harlem many decades ago. She has been noted as a promoter of eugenics, which included the idea of fewer blacks. Gosh, you Liberals will blame everything on so called white supremacy without even researching what you are promoting. I would think that the Klan and this black feminist might have a few things in common….fewer black kids…think about it.

  17. I think it is sad that this community looks at abortion as part of the solution for their lack of health care availability. If we generally want to help these women we would insure that any and all women who are pregnant receive full health coverage throughout their pregnancy and we would insure that all women have available birth control. I wish that this community of women understood that planned parenthood was created to eliminate the black and brown community. Limiting abortion to the early weeks is the right thing to do. These babies have rights too.

  18. This is unadulterated nonsense. It takes one wrong (systemic racism) and uses it as license to commit other atrocities. These matters are objective, not subjective.

    If there is no God, there is no moral law. The idea of rights is just a construct of society, and it will die with society or when someone bigger and stronger comes along and decides differently. That is just evolution, and it would be no more wrong for us to steal, kill, or enslave than it is wrong for a mollusk to move along the sea floor. Meaningless matter in motion. Humanity is but a vapor that can’t give itself cosmic meaning.

    Luckily, there is a God who cares about justice and gave all of mankind both cosmic meaning and an objective, innate sense of morality. We all know that murder, in general, is evil. That fact is not subject to opinion. It is a moral law of the universe and we all know it. “But separation of Church and state” nothing. “But you’re not black or a woman” nothing. Moral law just IS.

    The only answer that matters here is whether an unborn infant is a human made in God’s image, and that is neither for man nor the courts to decide. It is only for us to discover. If the answer is yes, then abortion is murder and won’t be happening on the watch of the righteous.

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