Womankind is outraged at the leaked draft of the Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. We believe that individuals have the right to accessible reproductive and sexual health care and to have agency in making decisions about their own bodies, including whether to have an abortion. As an organization committed to supporting gender-based violence survivors on their path to healing, reproductive justice is not separate from Womankind’s work.
When lawmakers restrict abortion and other reproductive rights, these barriers disproportionately impact women of color, low-income women-- communities that Womankind has always served. Our community members experience barriers to medical care: limited access to health coverage, language barriers, racism, and negative impacts of immigration status. We have seen this time and time again in the history of this country. We continue to see, today, the devastating and long-standing impact it has had on the lives of women of color.
Women of color, have historically, borne the brunt of many injustices, including inequities in reproductive health. In 1994, the Women of African Decent for Reproductive Justice created the term Reproductive Justice, because the movement at the time did not include an intersectional analysis that considered race, gender, class, or other identities. The sole focus on freedom of choice, did not consider the issue of access. Access is often limited or non-existent due to systematic oppression, as we have seen with immigrant women or poorer communities. The limited focus on choice did not take into account historical injustices perpetrated against women of color, from the forced sterilization of indigenous women to the alarming rates of Black women dying from pregnancy complications, among others. For the AAPI community, we continue to see the push for sex-selective legislation across the country, targeting community members. This is another avenue that lawmakers have used to, in effect, restrict access to reproductive health. Overturning Roe v. Wade will only exacerbate these issues, and open the possibilities for additional challenges around various rights.
Gender-based violence, a human rights issue, is harm that is inflicted on an individual or group because of their gender identity. This violence is rooted in power and control and can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial. One way this violence manifests is through the control over a survivor's body--not allowing them to make decisions around contraception, forcing a survivor to keep an unwanted pregnancy, or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) due to sexual violence. Through this exertion of unjust power and control, a survivor's agency and self-determination are taken away from them.
As an organization that works to rise above violence, it is imperative that we fight for our survivors’ rights to have power and control over their own lives and bodies. The work to advance reproductive justice, including access to safe abortions, and the work to end cycles of gender-based violence are intricately interconnected. One of Womankind's values, included in our MAP (Moving Ahead Positively) model, is that we respect the survivor’s decision-making process including choices and pace. This is why we engage in trauma-informed practice, which focuses on providing options to survivors, prioritizing their ability to make choices, and empowering them to control their own narrative.
Womankind’s stance on reproductive and sexual health is rooted in preserving access and choice as well as protecting survivors’ agency over their bodies and lives. We do not separate out health and reproductive justice from the rights of our communities to cultivate lives free from violence of all forms. We support equal access to reproductive and sexual health services that are holistic, in the same way we work to ensure our communities have the rights to basic needs and equal access to other resources afforded to them by the law.
Womankind will continue to center survivors and community members, who have a right to make their own choices and a right to adequate reproductive and sexual health access. As we mobilize in solidarity with others, we urge political leaders and those in power to protect and ensure reproductive justice, so that survivors of gender-based violence can rise above all forms of violence.
Parts of this statement were published in BUST Magazine in October 2021. You can read it here.