Around the Blogosphere
February 12, 2016
"Making equal access to reproductive health services a must for 2016,"Marcela Howell, Huffington Post blogs: "As the country takes time this month to remember the contributions of Black leaders who have come before and fought so hard for equality ... we must not forget that the fight still continues when it comes to ensuring all Black women have access to the health care that is critical to achieving true equality," writes Howell, executive director of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda. According to Howell, "The sad truth about American history is that Black women have long been denied the resources and services to make informed decisions about their health care." However, she notes that the Supreme Court this year "has the opportunity to ensure equal access to reproductive health care not just for Black women, but for millions of other women across the country" inWhole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to portions of Texas' omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). She explains, "Central to the Texas law are new restrictions on abortion providers, which have been held as medically unnecessary -- and even considered harmful -- by leading medical groups," citing research that found that, since the law took effect, "women have been forced to travel hours to access care, only to face exceedingly long wait times just to be seen at a clinic -- as long as 23 days at some clinics." Noting that such "barriers disproportionately affect Black women" and that black women face "higher rates of unintended pregnancies than any other racial or ethnic group and are more likely to lack access to contraception and quality sex education," Howell writes that her organization, joined by 11 other black women-led reproductive justice groups, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Whole Woman's Health "to highlight the barriers Black women face in accessing care and the impact on our families if laws like the Texas ... law are not stopped." Howell writes, "Let's hope the Supreme Court stands up for women's rights as they've done for more than 40 years and tells states, once and for all, that barriers to abortion access are unconstitutional. That decision will be an important step in Black women's fight for reproductive justice and equality" (Howell,Huffington Post blogs, 2/9).
"#FlintWaterCrisis is a reproductive justice issue," Josie Pickens, Ebony: Pickens discusses the need to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where the water has been tainted with lead, "as a Reproductive Justice issue, and thus a feminist issue." She cites SisterSong, which defines reproductive justice as "'(t)he human right to have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments,'" including the human right to bodily autonomy from any form of reproductive oppression.'" Pickens notes that while the mainstream media's discussion of reproductive justice often "centers on abortion and women's ability to have safe access to them as a human right," she questions "where the mainstream (and especially White) feminist leaders and organizations are when we talk about Flint." Sharing the story of Flint resident Nakeyja Cade, whose children have serious lead poisoning symptoms and whose government-issued water filter is ineffective, Pickens writes, "Who is standing up for Nakeyja (and women like her) who are losing their right to birth and mother healthy children?" She also highlights the long-term effects of lead poisoning on women's reproductive organs, which can result in "infertility, miscarriage, preeclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension, premature delivery, low birth weight and stillbirth." Pickens writes, "We must additionally focus on the women of Flint who might've had healthy children prior to being lead poisoned, but whose children have now ingested lead, and why, as much as we are trying, bottled water will not help" the irreversible symptoms of lead poisoning, including brain damage. Calling for intersectional feminism, Pickens concludes, "Let's take our understanding of Reproductive Justice and apply it fairly to the women and children of Flint, today" (Pickens, Ebony, 2/2).