>Why don’t black women speak out on abortion (and other women’s issues)?

>I saw this opinion piece on theRoot (written by Latoya Peterson, editor of Racialicious) and it was interesting, to say the least. The author contends that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, black women account for 36.4 percent of all abortions done in 2006, but were only 8.5 percent of the national population. Yet, black women continue to remain silent on the right to choose and reproductive rights as a whole.

It got me thinking: why are we silent on abortion rights (and its threat from the right) and the right to reproductive freedom?

As the author points out, black women’s reproductive history in this country is one that’s different from white women:

We’ve often been the targets of sterilization programs. (Along with American Indian, mentally handicapped and Puerto Rican women living on the island.) The original founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was also a staunch believer in eugenics, and made specific references to “racial regeneration” through the promotion of abortion.

Historically, black women and other women of color have had their rights to bear children stripped away completely while white women have historically been encouraged to breed and bear more white children for the survival of the race. Women of color have been told that our children are the problem children; that our genes are too inferior to produce offspring; that our style of parenting will only lead to delinquent criminals who will eventually become a burden onto the system–and whites. With this type of history hanging over our heads, black women, I believe, tend to look at abortion rights as a minute problem in the face of reproductive justice.

Then there’s the aurora the term “right to choose” tends to have among black women. Having been historically shunned from the white feminist movement (due to these said feminists refusing to wage a campaign that was inclusive to poor women of color), black women see the cause of abortion rights as one of a white woman’s issue. Whether this is due to black women not being invited to participate in the initial feminist debate or being caught up in the civil rights issue of advancing the entire black race is irrespective to the fact that we can not remain silent on this issue much longer.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the issue of abortion rights and other “women’s issues” affects us deeply and–ironically–has more of a negative impact upon women of color if these rights are stripped away from us. With black women accounting for nearly 40 percent of abortions, combined with our unequal access to quality women’s health care, our increased likelihood of living in poverty, in crime- and drug-ridden neighborhoods, it’s imperative that we take a stand and fight for the right to choose and for the right to reproductive justice.

We owe it to our bodies and to our selves to fight for the opportunity to have the same access to services and the freedom to reproduce without interference from outside sources just as the sisters who came before us had fought for.

What do you think? Why don’t black women speak out on abortion rights and other women’s issues?

0 comments on “>Why don’t black women speak out on abortion (and other women’s issues)?

  1. >I think black Women should not speak out on abortion. Instead, black women should focus on our capacity to choose whether or not we want to be mothers before we have established a solid family foundation to actually raise a child. When I use the term, solid family foundation, I mean a committed marriage or partnership (in reference to non-heterosexual or bisexual black women), that does not have to depend heavily on caretaking of the child from other family members or friends. I am not aware of the statistics regarding the children by black mothers and why they are aborted. What I am aware of is the high rate of out-of-wedlock births among black women and the unfortunate consequences the children face throughout their lives because their mothers chose to engage in highly risky behavior with far-from-fatherhood-material-men. Starting from the perspective of women having the right and power to choose whether or not they want to get pregnant at all, takes back the false message that pregnancy is something that "just happens unexpectedly." Making it a necessity to consider one's goals for themselves and whether having a child at a particular time helps them get closer or hinders their progress toward that goal could be the next step. Considering the kind of opportunities and quality of life we want for our children (for those women who decide they would like to have children) and whether we will be able to provide that for them at a particular time or on our own without the help of the child's father, helps to set up the criteria we as black women could live by. Having all of these things hashed out before we even think about engaging in sexual intercourse with another person could eventually dissolve the need to have an abortion at all. No sex, no child, no need for high rate of abortion.

  2. >I thought this was a really good post – sorry that it attracted a couple of spammy commenters. It's often true in the retelling of feminist history that the "major struggles" remembered are those of the white upper class: wealthy white women needed the right to not bear children and the right to work outside the home, while poor women and women of color needed the right to bear children (and not have them taken away) and the support to provide care at home to their families if needed. These struggles and differences remain alive today! But it's gotten better, hasn't it? Women of color have articulated principles for a framework of "reproductive justice" instead of only abortion rights, and white women have thankfully begun getting on board. I think it's significant that true justice is always expanding its demands to support more people — otherwise it's not very just!

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