This isn’t directly related to Black History Month but something I wanted to write about because it’s an incredibly important conversation. Plus, reproductive rights have been a hot topic over the years and sometimes violent – drastic measures like the Planned Parenthood video scandal from last summer and the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs last November have been taken by some to continue control over people’s bodies, decisions, and reproductive rights.
The conversation on reproductive rights should be more than just abortion (although that is an important conversation) because full access to all types of health care and education is incredibly important. And it’s also important that these conversations and policies are inclusive of all different people and issues – not just white cis women (although they are just as important). It’s important that the conversation and action not continue to erase black activists, trans people (including trans men), women of color, mentally ill, physically disabled, etc.
Reproductive justice is also important to talk about – a term and concept that came from the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective:
Reproductive justice is in essence an intersectional theory emerging from the experiences of women of color whose multiple communities experience a complex set of reproductive oppressions. It is based on the understanding that the impacts of race, class, gender and sexual identity oppressions are not additive but integrative, producing this paradigm of intersectionality. For each individual and each community, the effects will be different, but they share some of the basic characteristics of intersectionality – universality, simultaneity and interdependence.
When talking about reproductive rights, we also need to be talking about forced sterilization and how often, people might not even know that they were sterilized. There have been cases of trans people having to decide between transitioning or sterilization and other cases of people giving birth and in the haze after birth, agreeing to sterilization. There are others who weren’t told exactly what some documents were saying (language barriers, etc) and agreed to it unknowingly or others who had it done despite their pleas against it.
The people most affected by this issue are some of the most marginalized – trans people, women of color, mentally ill, disabled, native women, some intersections of the above and more. From the early 1900s to the 1970s for example, over 30 states had formal eugenics programs that enforced forced sterilization that were deemed unfit for parenthood.
These cases and others like them are most definitely forced and definitely do not fall under informed consent because they weren’t truly given any other options. For some trans people, it means another hurdle in their journey of transitioning and having to make that difficult decision between transitioning and having children. (Sweden has actually been notorious with this unfortunately.) For others, the decision in many cases was made for them and sometimes they weren’t even being told it had happened until much later.
There are states in the US that have been compensating people for forced sterilization but the fact of the matter still remains that these people should not have gone through that in any way. PBS has a documentary named No Mas Bebes that highlights the story of immigrant Mexican women who went through forced sterilization while at LA County-USC Medical Center in the late 1960s and 70s’.
Like with so many other things I’ve written about, there’s so much more in this conversation than what I’ve already covered and there’s so much that I don’t know about these issues and more. And there’s a constant conversation going on about these issues – there are art projects aiming towards repealing the Hyde Amendment, conversations on social media like #ShoutYourAbortion, people reclaiming space and access that’s often denied to many.