The Southeast is the battleground in the latest wave of radical attacks on abortion access. From Georgia to Alabama, and now to South Carolina and Tennessee, we are confronting increasing threats to our safety, bodily autonomy and human rights.
But the Southeast is also home to a diverse, vibrant and growing movement of people and organizations who are coming together to ensure that our society protects and respects the dignity, health and human rights of all people—in every community across our region.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. As it stands, South Carolina ranks 43rd in maternal mortality and 46th in health outcomes for women. Next door, Georgia has even worse outcomes, ranking last in maternal mortality with 46 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Tennessee, 85 percent of recent maternal deaths were found to be preventable; black women in the state are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women.
All across the Southeast, people are suffering, and even dying, because they lack access to reproductive care. Restricting access to abortion only puts more people’s lives at risk—especially folks who already face barriers to healthcare, including young people; people of color; people with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people; and people living in rural areas. But in each state where abortion threats loom, coalitions are gathering forces and fighting back.
The Southeastern Alliance for Reproductive Equity (SEARE) is a new regional coalition of reproductive health, rights and justice organizations anchored by Healthy & Free Tennessee, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN). In collaboration with many other organizations and other state-based and regional coalitions across the region, we are aligning our efforts to strengthen our work across reproductive health, rights and justice. As a multi-racial alliance, we have intentionally rooted our alliance in the reproductive justice framework, which was created by Black women 25 years ago and demands that all people have the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children or not have children and parent children in safe and sustainable communities.
We know that to make this vision into a reality in our region, we must work together more collaboratively across geographic and movement boundaries. Crucially, we must diagnose and dismantle systems of white supremacy that perpetuate harm to communities of color and other marginalized people. Through SEARE, we will more deeply reflect on how white privilege affects our organizations, our movements and our communities. We will share our resources and expertise with one another, and we will facilitate closer connections and coordination. We must uplift and invest in innovative grassroots work, particularly work that is being led by people of color, young people, gender-marginalized and other people most affected.
Despite the vocal opposition to abortion bans being voiced across the country, and the majority of Americans supporting the right to abortion, legislators across the South are moving quickly to deny people the autonomy to make personal healthcare decisions and access to the resources and services needed to thrive. With the current make-up of the United States Supreme Court, we know that these state-level bills could escalate and set in motion sweeping and severe consequences across the country.
Now is not the time for fear or complacency. Now is not the time for us to retreat to our silos. Instead, it is the time for organized resistance and collective action. With access to abortion under attack like never before, we must come together to speak up.
The South has always had something to say. As a united movement, SEARE will ensure we are heard.