Last week, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda gathered experts in Washington, D.C., for a briefing on the state of Black women’s reproductive justice and the challenges they are facing now.
Deon Haywood, executive director of Women with a Vision; Marsha Jones, executive director of The Afiya Center; Masonia Traylor, founder and CEO of Lady BurgAndy and Heidi Williamson, CEO of Idieh Consultant Group, joined Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice, for a conversation spanning the criminal justice system, abortion access and HIV/AIDS among Black women. The briefing was timed to the launch of a new report by In Our Own Voice—“Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice”—spotlighting the intersections of policy, reproductive justice and economic equity for Black women.
“Let us be clear,” Howell said at the briefing, “a vision of economic equality that does not also address the multiple facets of racial and gender inequality is not progress—it’s Jim Crow. Black women need equity, but we also need to take charge of our own lives by continuing to lead in activism, run for office, finance other Black women candidates and be our own best experts in organizing for policy change.”
According to the report, “poor health—including poor maternal health—can result from social determinants of health, such as poverty and racism, which have a cumulative impact on Black women’s bodies before, during and after pregnancy.” To start looking at changes, Howell outlined an agenda for action: prioritizing voter engagement and GOTV efforts, collaborating with local advocates to develop and support policy change that promotes reproductive justice, investing in Black women leaders, building coordinated responses to injustice across movements and communities and calling for Black women to tell the stories of their lived experiences and leadership. The report zeroed in on abortion rights, the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Black women and the potential impacts of its repeal, maternal health and equal access to contraception.
“The time is now,” Howell added in D.C., “for Black women to use the power of our vote and our lived experiences to inform real policy change.”