The New Year Invites New Opportunities to Center Race+ Equity in the Fight for Reproductive Freedom
By: Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s Equity and Learning team
A new year invites us to reflect on the days of pain and progress put behind us, and it also asks us to consider the ways in which we can continue to grow together into our collective future. January, the first month of the year, brings us a significant date of historical and present importance for such meditation: Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the seventeenth.
While we take the time this month to commemorate MLK and his teachings on justice, we must reject the whitewashing of his legacy and any notion that his fight for equity has long been over. We must be explicit regarding our interpretation of the recent year’s events: it is evident that MLK’s fight for racial justice continues, as police brutality, the COVID-19 pandemic, and attacks on Roe v. Wade keep deepening health disparities by most adversely affecting Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
Just this week, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis voiced support for a proposed 15-week abortion ban that has been modeled after the restrictive laws passed in Texas and Mississippi this year. Though Texas’s Heartbeat Law (SB8) is presently under review by a federal appeals court, and Mississippi’s anti-abortion law is currently being challenged before the Supreme Court (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), we know that this politic disproportionately impacts people experiencing poverty and people of color.
Because of barriers created by systemic racism, people from BIPOC communities who are seeking abortion services may not have the necessary financial resources or flexibility to access care, especially if it is only available out of state. Moreover, these laws exacerbate inequity and add to systemic racism by calling for vigilante action via surveillance that will result in further targeting of people of color.
As a country ever challenged by the violence of white supremacy and other oppressive systems, we know that MLK’s words are still salient when we revisit such notable quotes as: “…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Positive, sustainable change may not be quick, but victory in the fight for equity is inevitable.
As an affiliate and as a greater organization, we at Planned Parenthood commit to centering those most marginalized by anti-abortion legislation in our continuous fight for bodily autonomy and sexual health equity. Those opposed to reproductive freedom will continue strategically chipping away at Roe’s foundation unless we approach its preservation through thought and action that is rooted in a Race+ equity framework.