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In smarter solidarity <3
On October 2, I heeded the call of our fellow activists at the Women’s March, and made my way to Foley Square in New York City for the rally for Abortion Justice. There were several hundred people there, of all ages, genders, races – with a large contingent of teenage and college girls, and another of “older” activists (I saw some of my old friends and colleagues!)
The atmosphere reminded me in some respects of the original Women’s March in DC in January, 2017: fiery speeches, brilliant and often funny signs highlighting the absurdity and cruelty of the abortion bans taking hold across the U.S., folks milling about and waiting for the March to begin. Interestingly, the usual big players, Planned Parenthood and NARAL, were less prominent than usual.
What struck me most was how the message of abortion justice evidently resonated with the protesters, who were there “in all their diversity.” In the years since 2017, many feminist activists have truly grappled with the links between reproductive/abortion justice, policy brutality inflicted in Black and brown communities, housing insecurity, increasing income inequality, the rich not paying taxes, clean water and clean air, and more. SisterSong’s definition of reproductive justice, was the philosophical underpinning of this event.
While the now famous protest sign says: “I cannot believe I have to keep protesting this shit,” there is growing recognition that we are in this predicament because white middle and upper-class feminists in the US have, for too long, broken solidarity with Black and brown women, undocumented women, and low-income women. They broke solidarity with the women who need federal funding – here and abroad - to ensure abortion access is a reality for them. They also broke solidarity with Black and indigenous women in the US, who die in pregnancy and childbirth at 3 to 4 times the rate of white women, and who routinely experience obstetric violence, forced sterilization, arrests for “endangering” a fetus, and more…. And they broke solidarity with the Black, feminist, reproductive justice activists who, since 1994 (that's over 25 years ago…) have been making the case that “choice” is not enough – that a safe, nurturing and sustainable environment is critical for their families.
The movement for abortion justice is taking its rightful place. White abortion rights activists are finally beginning to embrace the full agenda that abortion justice calls for. That is what young people at the March called for. I am also heartened by the fact that the March turned out people all across the U.S., in 650+ communities, many of them in places where marching for abortion justice is not easy or common. There is a sense that we are in re-building mode. Our common humanity hangs in the balance.