Op-Ed: The Criminalization of the Right to Choose Impacts Black Birthing People Most—Here’s How We Can Fight Back

pregnant-woman-62722
Image: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc for Getty Images

My first experiences associated with knowledge of sex are centered around fear and confusion. Like most other young people, I learned about sex in elementary school from classmates and teachers during my school’s Sex Education class. I remember feeling embarrassed and worried about the unknown when it came to my body.

I believe as we age, life—in many ways—should become easier, more progressive and less scary because we are older and have dealt with many “life experiences.” However, today, as a Black woman approaching her 30s, I now find myself filled with the same fear and confusion that I experienced and felt as a child. I am afraid that if I decided that I wanted to end a pregnancy, I would face jail time. I am confused and unsure about what this means for me because I don’t see where I have any power to change the Supreme Court’s decision. I am angry that the laws, legislation, elected officials, judges and ultra-conservatives are making decisions about the future of my body and criminalizing my right to choose what I want to do with it.

A month after a leaked draft written by Justice Samuel Alito was released to the public, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, making it so that many birthing people living in the United States will not be able to access abortion. For decades, advocates, politicians, judges, and policymakers have debated and had public and private conversations about abortion rights in the United States. Now that the Supreme Court justices have decided to strike down Roe v. Wade, Black, Brown and poor people will be impacted most. Abortion access is a racial justice issue and an attack on poor people, the working class and women in general.

Many of the new laws that are taking away abortion rights are in southern states where there is a large Black demographic. Healthcare has always been largely inaccessible to Black people. With abortion becoming a criminal act, greater numbers of lower income birthing people will seek unsafe illegal abortions in their hometown or they will have to travel to states where abortions are still allowed—which is also illegal.

Traveling to another state to get an abortion will be a struggle for those who do not have the means to do so, for they will most likely not be able to afford the cost of travel. With the proposed legislation not only will those who terminate a pregnancy—the pregnant woman or doctor—face criminal charges, but even a person such as a taxi driver who drives the person to get the abortion or a family member who pays for the procedure will face legal repercussions.

The anti-abortion movement is a white supremacist movement because forcing people to have unwanted babies will keep Black and Brown people poor and struggling. During slavery, white men forced Black women to bear children. In addition, Black mothers tend to struggle most when it comes to balancing work and parenting because they are less likely to be able to rely on a partner for help with parenting, take a break from employment, work from home or outsource child care. This is an added burden that she must bear 

Though, like me, you may feel powerless, embarrassed and afraid, it is important to remember that the power of the people is always greater than the people in power. Our vote and our voices matter. We must remember our history and teach it to young people. We can collectively make a change by contacting our local prosecutors and attorney generals and asking them not to criminalize abortions. It is also in our power to seek out and support the work of Black reproductive justice organizations such as the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda and Black Feminist Future. Remember, we are the people, too, and our choices matter just as theirs.

Newsletter

Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.

Newsletter

Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter

When you sign up for the EBONY newsletter, you’ll be the first to know about all the latest news and updates that are important to you. Gain access to exclusive interviews, videos, special events, and product giveaways delivered right to your inbox!

By subscribing, you agree to share your email address with EBONY to receive our weekly emails, events, and other updates. Please see our privacy policy for more information.