TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Alencia Johnson, Assistant Director, Constituency Communications

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Last night, during the first Republican debate, the candidates took the chance to remind us where they stand on a woman’s right to make personal medical decisions -- they all support policies that would cut millions of women off from basic, preventive, reproductive health care and oppose abortion.

In stark contrast was the lack of attention to racial justice as only one candidate tried to answer a question about the Black Lives Matter movement. In less than a minute, Scott Walker fumbled on his answer.Think Progress tells it best:

Yet Walker’s only response was advocating for proper training for law enforcement, particularly when it comes to use of force. He then called for showing those who step over the line that ‘there are consequences to show that we treat everyone the same in America,’ but did not specify if he means police officers who shoot unarmed civilians should be indicted. Though Walker referenced Milwaukee, Wisconsin in his answer, he did not mention that a police officer who shot a homeless African American man 14 times last year ended up facing no charges.

This morning, instead of focusing on issues facing black America, Rick Santorum continued his race-baiting rhetoric with inaccurate information on black women's health care decisions. Besides Scott Walker's fumble, this is the only time many GOP candidates mention issues that impact black women -- but not to lay out policies to improve our communities, just that they would take away the fundamental right to reproductive health care.

Here’s a fact for the GOP: Two-thirds (67 percent) of African Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 91 percent of young African Americans believe that contraception needs to be available and affordable to help young people stay healthy.

Don’t believe the facts? Maybe they should check outCynthia Greenlee’s myth-busting piece on Ebony.com, where she says:

Let’s call the video what it is — the latest in the anti-abortion movement’s appropriation of civil rights and its crass manipulations of history. And it won't be the last because abortion opponents have long capitalized on the very real history of how exploiting Black bodies has been foundational to the United States, whether we talk about slavery, medical experimentation or mass incarceration. But while ‘pro-lifers’ seek to sway Black people by acknowledging the past, they spin history and foster myths and misconceptions about not just Planned Parenthood, but also Black people's responses to various reproductive and sexual-health issues.

Or,Kellee Terrell’s commentary on BET.com, explaining that:

For many Black women, regardless of socioeconomic and/or insurance status, these clinics have been a gateway to receiving quality and culturally competent health care. Each year, PP provides more than 280,000 African-Americans with family planning counseling and birth control services. It’s a place for us to get tested for HIV and linked into care if we test positive. A place to receive health education, life-saving breast exams, Pap smears, HPV screenings and vaccinations, STD testing and treatment and emergency contraception (which I have gotten from PP in the past).

Looks like they missedRenee Bracey Sherman sharing with Cosmopolitan why it’s difficult for women -- particularly women of color -- to share their abortion stories given the shame and risks of danger from anti-choice activists:

Sharing my story has been a freeing and empowering experience that I wouldn't change for a minute. But being a biracial black woman who tells the world about her abortion brings on a litany of racist and sexist epithets that take their toll on my emotional and mental well-being. Aside from dealing with the online hate spewed at me, I've also had real-world consequences including anti-abortion activists shouting in my face and a lost relationship with a family member.

And Gov. Jindal, you should check out whatWomen With a Vision had to say about your decision to cut Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood -- a move that harms women of color and low-income people:

The reproductive health crisis is dire in Louisiana. Women in the New Orleans metro area, especially Black women, experience multiple negative reproductive and sexual health outcomes, such as high rates of infant mortality, chronic diseases, and HIV/AIDS. Louisiana ranks third highest in the nation for estimated HIV case rates; the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge rank third and second, respectively. In New Orleans African American women bear the brunt of HIV and STI infections and AIDS deaths. They also face high rates of HPV infection, cervical cancer, and chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

It’s clear the GOP is out of touch with the health care needs of black women. Based on their current focus, it looks as though they will stop at nothing to focus on eliminating reproductive health care options for women who need them the most, and do nothing to ensure the issues facing black America will be addressed through real policy changes.

-Alencia