>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?