Although abortion has been legal in the U.S. for 43 years, there are still those who would attempt to impede abortion rights, and at least in one case, possibly co-opt the language of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Missouri Republican state Rep. Mike Moon has introduced legislation called the “All Lives Matter Act,” which would actually further the agenda of abortion opponents.
Moon’s bill includes the definition that the “life of each human being begins at conception,” similar to so-called “personhood” legislation, which seeks to effectively outlaw abortion.
Critics have called Moon’s legislation an “outrage.” Christine Assefa, a St. Louis organizer for the Organization for Black Struggle, believes the bill is offensive to the memories of Blacks who have died at police hands, including Michael Brown, and further marginalizes Black women seeking abortions.
“This bill is directly in response to the Ferguson uprising and the Black women who were leaders in protest and boldly expressed their bodily autonomy by taking to the streets proclaiming and affirming that Black Lives Matter,” said Assefa. “Not only is the name of the legislation offensive, it is contradictory and a perfect example of the way in which the state uses policy to codify harmful stereotypes of Black women.”
But Moon does not agree: “The bill’s title was not meant to be offensive,” Moon told EBONY.com. “I believe that whether a person is black, yellow, brown, or white they should have access to the same opportunities as others.” When asked about his bill not addressing the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, he explained that abortion is “what [he] calls brutality.”
Advocates, including St. Louis-based Reproaction co-director, Pamela Merritt, say these tactics aren’t new. “Attempts by the pro-life movement to appropriate the language of Black Lives Matter are just the latest example of that movement's long history of pandering to their conservative and often racist base by insulting Black women and dismissing Black activism,” said Merritt, describing how abortion opponents have presented a lack of support in the fight for reproductive justice issues, including infant mortality, ending poverty, expanding healthcare access, and addressing gun violence.
“This same movement is silent when Black children are shot and Black women are raped by police officers,” she said.
Assefa agrees, saying that Moon’s only goal is to take the decision making power away from the women in his state.
“Rep. Moon is using Black women’s bodies as a site to police the decisions that all women in the state of Missouri are able to make when it comes to their health by re-defining personhood and wiping out abortion access, criminalizing the use of IUDs, in vitro fertilization, and the morning-after pill,” she said.
In this respect, Moon says his critics are correct. His goal for the legislation is to “make abortion illegal in Missouri.” He believes that the law is necessary because the Constitution does not define when ‘personhood’ begins, adding “that is, without a law saying when an unborn person’s life can be taken, so yes, abortion in Missouri would be illegal.”
Even if Missouri signs Rep. Moon’s bill into law, it would likely face challenges in court. Recently, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeal arguments to a lower court’s ruling on similar legislation from North Dakota banning on abortion as early as 6-weeks and Arkansas at 12-weeks. The Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion until viability, which medical experts have defined as some point between the 24th and 28th weeks. States across the country have attempted to stop abortions at 20-weeks, however the fate of that legislation is questionable.
Still, Assefa questions Moon’s overall agenda. “If he really believes that all lives matter and is truly concerned about women’s health, then he would expand health care access in the state of Missouri, he would explore alternative birthing models like midwifery and make them available to rural women, indigenous women, trans/queer/gender expansive women,” she explained. Assefa goes even further and wants legislators to focus instead on creating laws that would end racist policing and invest in public education, health care expansion, and housing.
“They're seeking to assuage White guilt and bamboozle their base into thinking they're civil rights activists by denying Black women access to reproductive health care,” said Merritt. “There's no room in their hustle for true concern or legitimate advocacy on behalf of Black lives.”
Currently the bill, HR 1794, has not been scheduled for hearings and is not on the Missouri House calendar, according to its website.