George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. We say these names today and remember the names of so many more in the hope that their lives will not be forgotten. Black lives matter. Their deaths must be answered with swift justice and reformative action. They, like so many before them, died because of racist violence or police brutality, which are often one and the same. They died because of the systemic racism that festers within our nation and pervades our country’s police departments.
The fundamental right to bodily autonomy—the belief that every person should be safe and free in their body—guides Planned Parenthood’s work and our fight for reproductive freedom. State-sanctioned violence makes the promise of freedom unattainable for Black people in this country—that includes reproductive freedom. If Black people do not have the bodily autonomy necessary to live their daily lives — or protest the violence against their lives — without the fear of violence or murder, we can never truly achieve reproductive freedom or justice.
The Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund stands in solidarity with the Black community and we join them in demanding justice and accountability. All officers who have participated in the murder or assault of Black people must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Yet the racism we face extends far beyond the actions of individual police officers. We see it in our workplaces when the contributions of Black workers are undervalued and they are denied a living wage. We see it in our schools when Black students are disproportionately and more harshly punished than their white peers. We see it on the way to the ballot box when government ID is required to vote. And we see it in our health care system as evidenced by the current pandemic that is disproportionately ravaging Black and brown communities.
Systemic racism is a public health issue. It is a reproductive rights issue. It is a human rights issue.
We must act to put an end to these blatant injustices and the racist systems that create and enable them. We demand better from those who hold power and we demand better from ourselves. We must reckon with the history of Planned Parenthood and that of the larger reproductive rights movement. That history has excluded Black voices and left communities of color behind, or worse, advanced an agenda at the expense of these communities. We must examine and address how this racist history manifests today. Further, we must take accountability and correct the implicit bias within our organization so we can improve Planned Parenthood’s delivery of health care and education for all people. We must commit to supporting and making space for the Black organizations and leaders already at the forefront of this fight. We must follow their lead.
The sorrow and outrage the Black community and other communities of color feel right now is palpable. I know these last several days have been especially painful for Planned Parenthood’s Black employees, patients, colleagues and partners who are experiencing deep hurt and stress. With that in mind, PPAF wants to show up for our communities and share with our supporters actions they can take to work in solidarity with Black communities right now.