By Deborah Bailey | AFRO | Word In Black
(WIB) – Planned Parenthood is doing the extra work to make it known that Black women are at the heart of the fight for reproductive freedom.
Planned Parenthood Federation, whose network of clinics serves 400,000 Black women each year, has organized a “Stand for Black Women” campaign, designed to send a message about the central role of Black women in the struggle for reproductive freedom.
“The Supreme Court failed this country by stripping away the constitutional right to abortion for millions of people by overturning Roe v. Wade,” says Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation.
“This resulted in unacceptable barriers that keep Black people from the comprehensive health care they need and deserve,” McGill Johnson told the AFRO.
Planned Parenthood, founded in 1916, has traveled a rocky road historically with Black women.
Margaret Sanger, a leading voice in the reproductive rights movement of the early twentieth century and a founder of the clinics that evolved into the Planned Parenthood of today, was a firm believer in Eugenics, a theory that was condemned by many social scientists as racist. Eugenics hold that the human race can be improved through “planned breeding.”
In a 2014 statement on their website, Planned Parenthood distanced itself from Sanger’s beliefs, saying her views “caused irreparable damage to the health and lives of generations of Black people, Latino people, Indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and many others.”
Planned Parenthood has partnered with Women’s March, formed in 2017 in response to former President Trump’s policies.
Today, both the Women’s March and Planned Parenthood say they want to make it clear: Black women represent the core of why reproductive freedom must be maintained in America.
First term Congresswoman Cori Bush, one of eight honorees recognized by Planned Parenthood during the organization’s special brunch event, “Stand for Black Women,” spoke to the heart of reproductive freedom as a core concern for Black women.
“The decision to overturn Roe this past June was a continuation of this country’s shameful legacy of legislating and politicizing our bodies,” Bush says.
Bush recently chose to make her own story of abortion public. Sharing the story of the abortion she had as a teenage woman opened a flood gate for other Black women to emerge from shame to tell their own stories as survivors of sexual violence, commented Bush.
“I publicly shared my abortion story for the first time, one year ago today,” says Bush, who is a registered nurse and has introduced four bills affirming reproductive rights since January 2021 when she assumed her role in Congress. “I know that by sharing my story, that has the potential to help someone else.”
Bush, and all of the activist organizers honored, continue to ensure that Black women’s voices are at the center of efforts to push back on women’s rights like the Women’s March event across the nation this weekend.
Ebonie C. Riley, senior vice president of Policy and Strategic Partnerships with the National Black Action Network, was amongst the Black women honored by Planned Parenthood at the event.
Riley hails from a family of organizers and social justice advocates.
“Organizing is not something you do just to post on your social media page,” Riley says. “This is not glamorous work. It is essential work – our necessary business.”
Other honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Marcela Howell, founder and president of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice agenda, West Virginia Delegate (WV-51) Danielle Walker, Actress Lynn Whitfield, and Amalgamated Bank, who was honored as a Corporate Champion for Reproductive Health.
McGill Johnson said Planned Parenthood’s “Stand for Black Women” movement is not only for middle and upper income Black women, who have platforms echo their voices, but for Black women living in underserved circumstances, most impacted by restrictions on abortion.
“We have advocates in every state who are helping to elect people in every state who support access not just to women’s health but to voting rights and alternatives to gun violence and all the issues that we need to live safe and free lives,” McGill Johnson says.
Women, men, and persons who stand for preserving the right to abortion in the United States are gathering to march on the nation’s capital this weekend and in hundreds of cities across the U.S.
The National Women’s March has been working since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, on the Women’s Wave marches held the weekend of Oct. 8 across the nation. The group is determined to send a message prior to current political figures as well as those running for governor in November’s state and national elections.
The Women’s March, formed in 2017 in response to former President Trump’s policies, has had its share of problems including the concerns of Black women in the past.
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