Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy—the right to make decisions about if, and when, to have a child, how to bring up a child, as well as a safe and sustainable environment to raise that child. This April—which includes National Minority Health Month and Black Maternal Health Week—we recognize and honor the reproductive justice movement, developed by Black feminists in the 1990s that continues to be led by communities of color today.
At its core, reproductive justice seeks to ensure all individuals have the freedom and resources to make decisions about their bodies, including the right to access safe and legal abortion, contraception and pregnancy care. Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), the nation’s largest independent abortion fund, follows this reproductive justice model, working in marginalized communities across the U.S. to provide abortion funding to providers on behalf of patients.
The Supreme Court overturned Roe last summer—but many of us reproductive freedom and justice advocates had already seen for years that Roe was never enough, as it has always been difficult for people of color to access reproductive healthcare.
Still, the Dobbs decision was like a gut punch. It did not go without the gamut of emotions for me, along with WRRAP: deep concern for communities, individuals, clinics, clinic staff and doctors, along with anger, tears, sadness and disappointment. Since then, the ongoing attack on women’s rights, including reproductive freedom, has been reprehensible.
We know that pregnancy and reproductive healthcare are particularly dangerous for Black people. At WRRAP, we see everyday the barriers that people are facing in pregnancy, with unwanted pregnancy, and in the ability to travel for any care. In the U.S., Black people access abortion 3.5 times more than white people, and pregnancy-related death rates among Black patients are three to four times more likely than among whites. In fact, the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed countries.
The health of Black women is under constant attack—including not being taken seriously by healthcare providers. Our pain is often dismissed or misdiagnosed. Not having access to culturally competent care negatively affects Black women during pregnancy and childbirth. My song “Rise” is about being undeterred in promoting, protecting and defending our basic human rights, despite the setbacks that may occur. It’s an anthem for people everywhere, including organizations like WRRAP.
The U.S. government has a long history of dictating and coercing the reproductive health decisions of Black, Indigenous and other people of color through policies that threaten vital health services. Working to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to cover abortion except with life endangerment, rape or incest and targets people with low income; increase Medicaid eligibility; acknowledge racism as a cause of health disparities; and address the disproportionate impact of the COVID pandemic on communities of color—all need to be at the forefront of immediate changes. We need to take action.
This is not only a women’s issue to be fought by women only. Our universal fundamental human rights must be guaranteed in law. We can only achieve reproductive justice when all people have the resources, and economic, social and political power to make decisions about all aspects of their lives, including decisions about their bodies, families and communities.
My song “We Buildin’” celebrates the possibilities for prosperity in America and the benefits of diversity in making the country better.
The restrictions on women’s bodies, like the rollback of abortion and reproductive rights, are numerous, heartbreaking and dangerous. That is why I join with WRRAP to look beyond Roe.
This fight is bigger than Roe—it’s about ensuring Black women, and all women, have the autonomy and resources to make decisions about their reproductive health and bodies. This includes the right to access safe and legal abortion, contraception and pregnancy care.
We believe equality, equity and autonomy are fundamental rights. We believe every individual should have agency to make decisions about their own life and well-being.
We believe governments should not have control over a woman’s body, as it violates their right to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity.
We believe women should not be relegated to second-class status or secondary supporting roles.
I, Kwanza Jones, and WRRAP, voice our resolve to continue our efforts to ensure women have control over their own lives and bodies free from government interference or societal oppression. We encourage others to join us in advancing equity and equality for girls, women and for all.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.