Home > Striving for Reproductive Justice in a Political System that Reproduces Injustices: An Interview with Amani Danielle Echols by PUM Contributor Jack L. Daniel

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Striving for Reproductive Justice in a
Political System that Reproduces Injustices: 
An Interview with Amani Danielle Echols by PUM Contributor Jack L. Daniel

 

 

JLD:        Amani, in the context of the recent state anti-abortion initiatives, please summarize what is meant by “reproductive justice.”

ADE:      Reproductive justice is a movement that seeks to dismantle patriarchy by bringing women’s voices to the forefront of conversations regarding their bodies.  “SisterSong defines Reproductive Justice as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.  …Reproductive Justice is …a human right… About access, not choice. Mainstream movements have focused on keeping abortion legal as an individual choice. That is necessary, but not enough. Even when abortion is legal, many women of color cannot afford it, or cannot travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic. There is no choice where there is no access.  …Abortion access is critical, and women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more…”  https://www.sistersong.net/mission

JLD:        As of May 15, 2019, a Guttmacher Institute report indicated that 33 states had recently proposed legislation to ban abortions.  One of the most extreme pieces of legislation is the Alabama Human Life Protection Act which not only essentially bans all abortions but also makes no exceptions for rape and incest.  An abortion performed in violation of this Act would be punishable by 10 years to life in prison.  Notwithstanding the fact that a female governor signed the Alabama law, one fundamental principle that must be addressed is the extent to which patriarchy continues to dominate what women do in America. Note, for example, that the Alabama near-total abortion ban Act was passed by a 25 to 6 vote. All 25 senators who voted in favor of the bill where Republican, White, and male. At the heart of patriarchy is the belief and practice whereby men dominate power arrangements, so much so that, in the immediate instance, men can primarily determine what, when, where, and how women can do things with their bodies.

ADE:      Yes, and this adverse political narrative has polluted American culture since its existence.  As you know, women’s fundamental rights were not included in the Constitution and laws that differentiate by sex are not given strict judicial scrutiny in court, as outlined by the Fourteenth Amendment.   It is the American way to neglect the needs of women, individuals who identify as women, and this neglect has greater impact on low-income individuals and women of color. Furthermore, the recent trend of more restrictive state abortion laws is an indication that certain politicians are politicizing abortion at the expense of women’s bodily autonomy and integrity. 

JLD:        To me, this is all part of “making America great again” and “taking back America,” i.e., taking America back to when racist White males reigned supreme.  They are acting so hastily that they are ignoring a host of unintended consequences. 

ADE:      A good example is the recent Alabama legislation which fails to consider the fact that this law will not eliminate abortions in the State. Rather, the statute will abolish safe abortion options forcing pregnant people to seek illegal, unsafe and dangerous abortions in secret. The Alabama provision contradicts real efforts to truly care for the health and well-being of women, pregnant people, and fetuses, such as improving access to comprehensive healthcare, thriving education systems, affordable housing, affordable day care, and paid maternity/paternity leave.  If politicians really care about fetuses and consider themselves pro-life, then why not also support life when it enters the world? Why do they only “support” and “advocate” for Black fetuses when they are in the womb and not when they enter society? 

I intentionally refer to “fetus” instead of “baby” because, in 2017, the Trump Administration banned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading public health agencies from using the word “fetus.” This forced national public health agencies that produce and release large quantities of information for the lay public to resort to using the word “baby” instead of a growing “fetus” in the womb. This policing of terminology is another political tool in the abortion conversation because typically more weight is put on the outcome of a “baby” rather than that of a “fetus.”  Instead of prioritizing the bodily autonomy of women and pregnant people, a myopically driven power play exists, primarily driven by White men with the intent on overthrowing Roe v. Wade which empowered women.

Still worse, The Alabama Human Life Protection Act compares the estimated number of abortions since the landmark Roe v. Wade case with the number of deaths during the Holocaust, Joseph Stalin's regime in Soviet Gulags, the Chinese "Great Leap Forward," Khmer Rouge ruling in Cambodia, and the Rwandan Genocide (slavery in the U.S. was conveniently not included). These comparisons are extremely distasteful, abhorrent, and offensive to individuals impacted by these horrendous points in history. Moreover, it is deeply offensive to compare genocides with the purpose to ethnic cleanse certain countries and stop reproduction of certain ethnic groups via genocide to basic women’s health rights. It is essential that the United States, as a nation, invests in reproductive and sexual healthcare—protecting, and even strengthening, Roe v. Wade would be an effective first step.

JLD:        Absolutely!  Given [1] all that is implied by “reproductive justice” as well as the fundamental issues related to women having agency when it comes to all aspects of their lives, and [2] the current political system that is reproducing injustices for women, what are your recommendations for countering the onslaught of state anti-abortion initiatives?

ADE:      Moving forward, it is essential that government officials as well as health and public health professionals acknowledge the whole picture when discussing reproductive health of which abortion is just one aspect. With that in mind, there are several ways in which individuals can get involved and stay informed to address these injustices from a reproductive justice framework:

1.      Vote. Vote. Vote. (“Vote like your rights depend on it!”)

2.      Repeatedly encourage women to run for office (research shows that women must be encouraged to run for office multiple times before deciding to run. When women run for office, they are elected at the same rate as men). Check out the She Should Run Campaign

3.      Call your legislatures: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

4.      Subscribe to Guttmacher Institute and Rewire News for accurate news on reproductive and sexual health policies

5.      Donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Abortion Fund

6.      Listen to women’s stories! And, follow the hashtag #YouKnowMe (1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 years in the United States, so it is highly likely that you know someone that has had an abortion)

7.      Read Reproductive Justice by Ross and Solinger

8.      ADDITIONAL SUMMER READS FOR MEN:

a.      Marching Beside, Not in Front: What Men Can Do to Support Women’s Rights: https://rewire.news/article/2017/01/20/marching-beside-men-womens-rights/

b.      Challenging patriarchy in political organizing: http://www.coloursofresistance.org/731/challenging-patriarchy-in-political-organizing/

c.      On Darrin Manning, and Reproductive Justice for Young Men of Color: https://rewire.news/article/2014/02/20/darrin-manning-reproductive-justice-young-men-color/ (Reproductive justice is not just a “women’s issue”)

d.      Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame and silence in the construction of gender identity: http://www.suarakita.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/masculinity.pdf

e.      Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Are women human? When will women’s rights be seen as equivalent to human rights?)

 

Amani Danielle Echols (B.A. in Community and Global Public Health;

Minor in Women’s Studies Gender and Health; University of Michigan)

 

Jack L. Daniel

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

 

June 2, 2019

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