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The War on Our Bodies: the Phase of Cold Clarity

Abortion Rights Protest Sign

Like many of you, I was not surprised at the designs of conservatives in and around the Supreme Court to gut the privacy and reproductive protections that Roe v Wade and subsequent decisions have provided.  I could see that every strategy to to take over the court, the ongoing and relentless attacks on the autonomy of cis and trans women would eventually lead to this moment. Right wing social media talking points have led far too many to political numbness. Even as hard fought freedoms are being stripped away, too many folks truly can’t grasp what it all means.

 

The war over and on our bodies is not a new thing.  For indigenous, Black and women of color, this war has been explicitly waged against us from colonialization, using religion and dogma as critical allies. It has used our own internalized sexism that second guesses our right to agency and autonomy. It has misrepresented our history, our knowing and traditions of reproductive choice. This war tells rich women it doesn’t matter and poor women there’s nothing they can do. And it tells cis men they need not care.   

 

I learned as a young person the toll this fight would take. As a clinic escort in Buffalo, New York during the years of “Operation Rescue,” I saw and experienced violence that so-called pro-life protesters would dole out on a daily basis. Yet, the solidarity and allyship I saw at the WomenServices clinic kept me and many other clinic escorts outside of its doors to ensure access for women.  Soon it would become the only clinic that provided abortion services in the city accessible by public transit.  We were shattered when our doctor, Dr. Bernard Slepian, was murdered in his home by an anti-abortion terrorist. It was twenty four years ago and I still remember the protesters mocking and taunting our very fresh tears the morning after his death . 

 

It was less than a year later that a childhood friend died from attempting to induce an abortion. Too afraid of the anti-abortion crowds and the stigma, she died because abortion although “legal,” was not financially accessible to her. 

 

Like many women of color, I have always known my rights were hard won and yet always near the chopping block. As a Black woman, I have witnessed first hand how political talking points render my reality invisible far too often and that everyday violence against our bodies and spirits have been normalized. As a Black lawyer, I know that the law is not always just and that “inalienable rights for all” is a good slogan but not always evident.

 

So when I sat down to read the draft opinion I expected it to be a dumpster fire. I did not expect the cold chill that ran down my spine. A chill that has not left me, even days later.  

 

The inescapable conclusion is that a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions…”

 

“Neither is my humanity or freedom,” I thought. The humanity of Black people is not deeply rooted in our history and traditions.  The humanity of Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people is not deeply rooted. Of LGBTQIA folks? Not deeply rooted.  The roots of this country lie in the colonizing project that defined “men created equal” as land owning white cis-men. This statement is not “political.” It’s simply a historical truth backed up by our laws and practices. 

 

As Heather Cox Richardson explained yesterday, Alito’s draft opinion is rooted in “originalism.” Originalism is a school of thought developed in the late 1830s that set out to create a rationale for chattel slavery.  It purported that rights come from the votes of local and state governments and that the federal government has no authority to grant rights. This belief in “states’ rights” led to the Civil War, but did not die there.

 

These absurd ideas have been by no means innocuous and have given foundation to so much of the white nationalist Christian rhetoric.  While the 1830s were some time ago, these beliefs opened a wedge in the door of our democracy to Jim Crow, the backlash to the feminist movement and LGBTQIA rights. Today it complements concerns of white minority in the US, Christian national rhetoric and patriarchial control.

 

This draft remains a draft and in most states abortion is legal, unincumbered (looking at you, Texas) and is rooted in the worst of our past. It represents regression, racism and tyranny. 

 

But this draft provides us the gift of cold clarity.  We don’t need to wonder. Our bodies, our families and our communities are on the line. As many have noted, the privacy rights afforded through the Roe v. Wade decision underpinned many modern decisions that impact our daily lives. The right to contraception, interracial marriage, and gay marriage are left vulnerable through a majority opinion like that of Alito’s draft. 

What do we do?

Demand

Being polite won’t save us. 

Organize

No one is getting free alone.  Listen to the voices of folks who have been organizing within communities particularly, Black womyn who have been fighting unsung battles like this for generations.  Be a part of coalitions. Stay in them even if you’re angry, tired or frustrated.

Provide care

Show up for womyn in need of contraception and abortion services. Show up for folks who need healthcare and ability services.

Keep a steady pace

The right is counting on progressives fever pitch now, and then a drop off in attention and energy by the time this draft becomes official. Stay in it for the long haul. 

Vote

This is happening because of and in collusion with voter suppression. Work locally to support free and fair elections to local, state and federal offices. Support organizations like Black Voters Matter.

Love

After waking up my friend Desiree with the news of this draft, she wrote this: 

Taking away access to abortion will not stop us from loving each other, and caring for each other and fighting for each other. That’s what we have always done and what we will always do.

Support

Support organizations that are led by and protecting the most vulnerable.

Abortion Funds in Every State

National Network of Abortion Funds

National Women’s Law Center

FreeFrom: an organization led queer, trans, im/migrant, and BIPOC Intimate partner violence Survivors

Sister Song: a national multi-ethnic Reproductive Justice collective

Black Voters Matter

The Brigid Alliance: The Brigid Alliance arranges and funds travel, along with related needs, to support individuals across the country who are forced to travel for later abortion care.

Midwest Access Coalition: MAC helps people traveling to, from, and within the Midwest access a safe abortion by assisting with travel coordination and costs, lodging, food, medicine, childcare, and emotional support.

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