It’s no coincidence that, as we stood on the steps of the Supreme Court celebrating the biggest win for abortion access since 1973’s Roe v. Wade, we danced to the music of Beyoncé. It just felt right, that a group of women, most of whom were born after Roe, many of whom are women of color, are taking on the fight for abortion rights as our own, making it relevant to our lives, and, well, getting in #Formation.
Let’s just say this was not your mama’s pro-choice rally.
As a Black woman who’s been working for reproductive justice for 17 years, this felt like a different kind of victory party, one that equally celebrated this historic moment and recognized how far we have to go make sure the right to abortion is a reality for each of us. I was proud to see Black women represented and representing: Black women from the South, Black Latinas, Black youth, Black women interns, students, and executive directors alike turned up to show support for the issue of abortion.
And why wouldn’t we? After all, not only are Black women profoundly affected by our nation’s abortion laws, we are also leading the fight for sexual and reproductive justice, which includes abortion, but also key issues for our community like maternal mortality, sex education, and keeping birth control affordable.
In their decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court has once again affirmed the constitutional right and ability for each of us to make our own decisions about our health, family, and future. Today’s decision recognizes that we all deserve compassion, respect, and dignity in making our own healthcare decisions without needless barriers. It means that no more clinics will close. It means that Black women in Beaumont, Texas who saw their hometown clinic close may again have hope that, sometime in the future, access to abortion could be closer than hundreds of miles away.
This decision also means that those politicians who have made it their zealous and constant mission to push abortion out of reach are on notice. Because today the highest court in the land said they have gone too far. Since 2010, politicians have quietly passed 339 new laws to make abortion hard to get. These laws force clinics to close, make women delay care, and disproportionately harm low-income women. For Black women across the country, from Texas to Ohio, these laws have meant abortion access is disappearing from our communities.
Now, and I say this both with hope and trepidation: I believe we have turned the tide.
This decision is the latest development in our 400 year history of taking our bodies back from those who want to control them and I know this decision will change so many lives in so many ways. Because as long as restrictive abortion laws deny the self-determination of young Black women and poor Black women and queer Black people and Black women living in rural communities, we cannot truly be free.
Today’s decision does not come close to removing all of the barriers to accessing abortion, but it is a big step in the right direction. We still have far too many laws on the books that serve no other purpose but to keep women from accessing abortion. The Hyde Amendment – turning a 40 years old this year – denies abortion coverage for people who get their insurance from the federal government. For those who are struggling to make ends meet, Hyde can put abortion entirely out of reach. There’s no question Hyde harms Black women—perhaps most of all.
But Black women are not sitting on the sidelines, we have been training our muscles and we’re ready to bend the arc of history toward justice with all our strength, fierceness, and #BlackGirlMagic. From Rep. Barbara Lee’s trailblazing introduction of the EACH Woman Act, which lifts the bans that deny abortion coverage, to Black women leading abortion funds in cities across the country, to young Black women in Alabama speaking out for their rights, we are doing the work.
And we are winning. But we’re not done yet.
It’s time to take the next step. We need Congress to do its part and pass the EACH Woman Act to end the Hyde Amendment and ensure abortion coverage for all who need it. We need to get rid of the state laws that push abortion out of reach. And we need to end abortion stigma, so that no one will feel silenced or shamed for the personal decisions they make about their life, family, and future.
Young people and people of color have been activated by this case and will build off of this powerful momentum to break down every barrier to accessing abortion. We are ready to fight for a future in which all of us – no matter our age, income, or where we live – can get safe and affordable abortion care if and when we need it.
Kierra Johnson is Executive Director, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE)