What to Know About the Fight for Reproductive Justice
By Greg Greene | Feb. 21, 2020, 3:10 p.m.
For a future with greater health equity and empowerment for Black people, people of color, and Indigenous people this movement is leading the way
In February, we celebrate the people and milestones of Black history — but we can’t limit ourselves to only looking backward. Black people have shaped this country since its beginning, pushing it closer to its stated ideals of liberty and equal justice under the law. That work continues, as Black feminist-led movements fight to address this country’s legacy of systemic bias and build a more equitable future.
What’s Reproductive Justice?
The term “reproductive justice” originated in 1994, when a group of Black women convened ahead of an international conference on population and development. These women agreed that the right to plan one’s family, or to choose not to, deserves a central place in any discussion of economic and social development — in the United States and worldwide.
The reproductive justice movement scrutinizes the effects of unfair laws and systems on marginalized communities. Racial bias, gender discrimination, and economic inequality are sources of injustice that catalyze ongoing activism — because health and rights are meaningless if people lack access to them.
Ten Organizations Working for Reproductive Justice
SisterSong has been a key organization in the fight for reproductive justice. Based in Atlanta, SisterSong was established by a network of women-of-color led organizations to foster the reproductive-justice movement’s growth by providing training, leadership development, and a space for collaboration toward shared policy goals.
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
The name “In Our Own Voice” aptly describes this initiative’s mission: to provide a place where leading organizations in the reproductive justice movement can convene and plan the path forward, in their own voices. The Black-led organizations that make up In Our Own Voice help to set the national agenda for reproductive justice — and provide coordination and resources for state-level fights for access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Black Women for Wellness
For more than two decades, Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness has worked for the health and well-being of Black women and girls. Black Women for Wellness bolsters all aspects of people’s well being — from physical to emotional, to financial — and advocates for resources Black women need to thrive.
Black Women’s Health Imperative
Since 1983, the Black Women’s Health Imperative has worked to erase inequities in health care — both by improving the access Black women have to care, and the care they receive. Its focus is on providing Black people, who are already resilient and powerful, the information and policies they need to achieve improved health outcomes and greater justice.
New Voices for Reproductive Justice
Founded in 2004, New Voices for Reproductive Justice has mobilized thousands of people in southwestern Pennsylvania and beyond to work toward the health and well being of Black women, girls, and trans folks. With its organizing and activism extending to Philadelphia and across the state’s border to Cleveland, Ohio, New Voices works for policy changes that deliver justice to marginalized communities — such as a ban on the shackling of imprisoned pregnant people.
Devoted to serving Black people in the South and beyond who live with HIV, SisterLove began as a grassroots network of volunteers. They’ve grown to provide testing, prevention, education, training, advocacy, and more. SisterLove seeks to break down stigma around HIV/AIDS, and works to eliminate structural barriers to health care. They also train service providers to understand the unique challenges that can face women and communities of color.
Launched in 2011, Memphis-based SisterReach works to support the reproductive autonomy of women, girls, and LGBTQ people of color. Serving people across western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and northern Mississippi, SisterReach focuses its efforts on the empowerment of people with low incomes and those who live in rural areas.
SisterReach founder Cherisse Scott established the organization after encountering, at a time when she was pregnant, a crisis pregnancy center confusingly disguised to seem like an abortion provider. “It's important to note that though this organization convinced me to keep my baby," Scott told Oprah magazine in 2018, "they were nowhere to be found to offer any support for his life, health, education, or well-being."
SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW
Based in Atlanta, SPARK advocates for changes in policies, leadership, and culture to empower people and communities to make decisions about their bodies and lives. Among its signature campaigns: an effort to pressure Georgia officials to outlaw the practice of shackling imprisoned pregnant people during labor and delivery.
Women With a Vision
This Louisiana organization began in response to the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities of color — and has grown its mission to serve, and work to empower marginalized women of color, LGBTQ communities of color, and families, by confronting the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being.
Today, Women with a Vision advocates for access to sexual and reproductive health care, sex education, and more — and works to destigmatize and decriminalize sex work, partnering with one New Orleans judge to divert defendants out of the criminal-justice system.
The Afiya Center
Based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Afiya Center was founded to help Black women overcome disparities in health access and outcomes. Its establishment was prompted by the disproportionate incidence of HIV/AIDS among Black women and girls in Texas — and today the organization empowers people in marginalized communities to combat the spread of HIV, while also working to change policies that have caused the dwindling of Texans’ access to sexual, reproductive, and maternal health care.
First launched as a program of the National Network of Abortion Funds, We Testify is an independent organization that amplifies the stories and voices of people of color, LGBTQ people, and others who’ve had abortions — bringing their knowledge and truth, in their own words, to the public sphere. This January, We Testify partnered with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to release ‘Ours to Tell’ — a Sundance-screened short film that amplifies the stories of four women living full and empowered lives because they had the freedom to choose abortion.
Join the Conversation
This Black History Month, Planned Parenthood is proud to celebrate the organizations spearheading the movement for reproductive justice — and remains committed to working with Black-led reproductive justice partners who lead the charge in this fight.
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