WashU Expert: It’s time to move the conversation beyond abortion forward – The Source

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard the arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is considered by many to be the most important battle over abortion rights in decades. If the court upholds Mississippi law or overturns Roe v. Wade, as the judges seemed ready to do, 21 states likely to ban or reduce access to abortion in a short time.

However, the current debate on reproductive rights – which focuses exclusively on legal access to abortion and birth control – is too narrow and fails to address the complexity of the issues people face, both structurally and personally, according to Zakiya Luna, Associate Professor of Sociology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“When we focus exclusively on abortion, we forget that it is part of a reproductive spectrum,” said Luna, author of “Reproductive rights as human rights: women of color and the struggle for reproductive justice. ”


“Most people spend decades of their lives trying to prevent pregnancy (theirs or someone else’s); have children (on their own or through other means such as adoption); forming families (with or without children); and keep this family healthy and happy. But it’s not like they’re separate categories.

Luna argues the country should focus on reproductive justice, which widens the conversation to include a wider range of reproductive experiences.

“The reproductive justice movement is focused on the resources people need to truly exercise their rights,” Luna said. “Reproductive justice came from women of color and takes the whole discussion a step further by noting that beyond the right not to have children (eg birth control, abortion), it It is also necessary to consider the right to have children and the right to be a parent. with dignity. “

How women of color are leading the fight for reproductive justice

Women of color have historically played an important – though often invisible – role in the struggle for reproductive freedom, according to Luna.

“Women of color have a unique reproductive experience in this country. We and our families have struggled from the start for reproductive control of our lives. Tracing back to the founding of this nation, Indigenous peoples have seen their families torn apart by colonizers who took their children and tried to “civilize” them by forcing them into residential schools.

“Enslaved black women gave birth to children that the law did not even consider to be their own – children born to slaves were legally the property of the master. These are just a few examples of how communities of color were not allowed to have children or raise children historically, ”she said.

“Go to 20e century, state and county governments forcibly sterilized groups of people including immigrants, people with disabilities, those convicted of crimes, and basically anyone seen as a threat to nation building pure. People of color were also part of these groups, but not exclusively. “

According to Luna, the movement for reproductive justice has grown tremendously over the past 15 years, in part because it benefits all women and families. “As one of the movement’s founders, Loretta Ross, says, reproductive justice was started by women of color, but it’s not just for them,” she said.

I hope everyone reading this will think about how they can help rather than focusing on what they can’t. The movements are made up of ordinary people doing their little bit to help.

Zakiya Luna

What will happen if Roe v. Wade is canceled?

If the court rules in favor of Mississippi or overturns Roe v. Wade, Luna said women of color would be disproportionately affected. Today, 75% of abortion patients are low income. Women of color – especially blacks, Latin Americans and Indigenous people – have disproportionately low incomes.

“Abortion has been part of the United States for centuries. When Roe v. Wade was decided, there were already different views on abortion in the United States, ”she said. “The patchwork of laws meant that some states had lawful access and some states had explicit restrictions. So the people who had the money to travel went to states like California and New York to have abortions or even to other countries. Just like people are doing now.

However, if Roe v. Wade is canceled, there is reason to believe it will have far-reaching effects beyond the low-income women most affected by the current restrictions, Luna said.

“Economic inequalities have only increased since Roe was decided, because the economic structure has changed dramatically in the United States,” she said. “Healthcare is associated with fewer jobs and healthcare in general has become a more complicated system. In addition, the cost of childcare has increased considerably.

“If Roe is toppled, anyone who gets pregnant and the people who love them will face a different set of realities in a post-Roe world.”

Hope is more productive than despair

With people on both sides of the debate claiming that Roe v. Wade is almost dead, abortion rights advocates may be feeling hopeless right now. To these people, Luna offers the following advice:

“Creating change is a long-term process. When people are sitting in isolation, just watching the news or listening to the Supreme Court, it’s quite easy to be desperate, ”she said. “But desperation does not lead to change.

“Every action we take on an issue close to our hearts has an effect; we can’t always see it in front of us. That’s why I think it’s important to be connected to some type of setting where people are involved in issues on a practical level. There are organizations in every state that connect those concerned with reproductive justice to concrete ways to make change. “

From housing to people traveling in or out of state for services, to donating water for an upcoming event, to simply donating money, there are a range of ways to support organizations concerned with reproductive justice. , Luna said.

“I hope everyone reading this reflects on how they can help rather than focusing on what they can’t. The movements are made up of ordinary people doing their little bit to help, ”she said.

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