Blog Posts

Eugenics never ended

US society talks a good game about the sacredness of motherhood, but there’s a long history in this country of seeing certain women’s fertility as a threat. The women who don’t need to be having any more children because they’re too poor or too disabled or too melanated or just not “us”. The children who will be welfare dependents or “idiots” or criminals or “anchor babies”.

That’s why the news that women in ICE custody have had hysterectomies performed on them against their will, though shocking, wasn’t surprising.

We don’t yet know the full details of what happened. It appears that the doctor who performed the hysterectomies may have been committing insurance fraud. It’s also possible, even likely, that some of them had real uterine health conditions. Either way, had the people given power over these women perceived their fertility to have any value, they would have been treated differently. They would have been informed of their condition, if any, and given treatment options.

But these were just immigrant women, “illegals,” whom the president and his supporters have decided this country doesn’t need any more of. Some people solve that problem with a wall; others, with a scalpel.

Uncategorized

No more “unless”

One thing the mainstream pro-life movement really likes to do is point at Black pro-lifers, Secular Pro-Life, Democrats for Life, etc. and say “See! We’re diverse!” One thing they really hate to do is learn anything from “diverse” pro-lifers that they don’t already agree with.

For the record: It wasn’t “smart” for the cops who killed Elijah McClain to be more wary of him because he was Black. It was racist, and it cost him his life. HIS LIFE—that thing we’re all supposed to care about. He had every bit as much of a right to life as a skinny, nerdy white kid or an unborn child, and someone being scared of him doesn’t change that.

Refusing to listen to Black people who point out the problems with this kind of thinking, and believing you (as a white person) are the one who should be schooling them on what Black people need—that’s racist too.

Pro-life (unless I’m afraid of you). Pro-life (unless it means inconveniencing myself by wearing a mask). Pro-life (unless you need public assistance to preserve your life and health). This isn’t pro-life at all.

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Note to pro-lifers

Regarding a recent blow-up on Twitter:

There is no call to respond to someone raising a point about racial injustice with a lecture about the “real racism” of abortion. None whatsoever.

How does telling Black people they don’t know what racism is help Black babies? It doesn’t. It hurts them by undermining the pro-life cause in the Black community, and it hurts them by perpetuating racism.

You want to talk about the injustices, most definitely including racial injustices, that lead to high rates of abortion among Black women? Great! Attacking a Black man for talking about racism because he doesn’t mention abortion in that tweet is … not that. At all.

Why would anyone listen to you about Black life in the womb unless you have consistently shown yourself to be an ally of Black life outside of it? Seriously, why?

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Stand up for Marshae Jones

Marshae Jones was shot in the stomach and her baby died. Now she’s being prosecuted for the child’s death. This is madness. Everyone who believes that the humanity of the unborn and the rights of their mothers are NOT mutually exclusive needs to stand up here.

Should she have gotten involved in a fight? Probably not. But a) the person responsible for the child’s death is the person who shot her and b) there are many things in life that might conceivably, if things go very wrong, harm an unborn child. Having to avoid them all cannot possibly be the standard a pregnant person is held to. Blame the person with the gun, not the person with the womb.

And to say that the baby is “the only real victim here”? That’s just inhuman. Jones was shot. She lost her child. By any reasonable measure she is a victim. But to see her as a victim, you’d have to see her as a person, not just a vessel.

The worst thing you could possibly do for the unborn is make people choose between seeing their humanity and being compassionate toward the people who bear them. And increasingly, that’s what’s been happening.

One wonders whether the state of Alabama is as zealous about protecting unborn children from the dangers of, say, pollution or inadequate health care (or indeed, gun violence) as it is about blaming pregnant people for any harm that befalls them.

You can call the Bessemer District Attorney’s office, who is prosecuting the case, and let them know that you don’t think this is a helpful way to defend life: 205-497-8610.

Blog Posts

It’s all connected

Seeing black children as nothing but criminals, worthy of death, starts early.

Among the findings likely to provoke reaction, sources say, are two emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

One, written in November of 2008, said that Barack Obama could not be president for four years because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

Another, written in May 2011, read: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

Ferguson police, court showed pattern of racial bias, Department of Justice to report

Blog Posts

Racism affects babies even before birth

Just one more reason why justice for moms is good for their children too: Babies born to mothers who face ethnic discrimination have higher levels of cortisol than babies whose mothers did not, meaning that their mothers’ stress has an effect on their bodies. This could set them up for health problems down the line.

The placenta, that semi-clear sac that nourishes the fetus, has enzymes that convert cortisol into a weaker version of itself. However, the placenta can only convert so much cortisol. When the concentration is abnormally high, Thayer posits, some of the non-converted hormone seeps into the womb. Again, a moderate amount of cortisol is healthy for fetal development. Babies who are born prematurely sometimes need synthetic cortisol injections to prompt lung development. But, too much cortisol comes with health problems.

Generational fallout: The meaning of high cortisol levels during infancy isn’t entirely clear. But infants who already have more symptoms of stress compared to their teeny-tiny peers could face health disparities down the road, perhaps related to mood disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Looking at the study more broadly, inheriting bias-induced stress might be part of an observed phenomenon in which maternal health influences a child’s health and development. Some researchers focus on what’s called the epigenetic impact of maternal health, which is roughly the study of how environmental factors (e.g., stress, smoking, diet) actually change genes. Thayer says she’s working on an epigenetic study to see if discrimination against mothers could change the expression of genes related to cortisol production in children.

Inequality compromises its victims’ life chances in so many ways — discrimination, diminished educational opportunities, criminal justice disparities, housing segregation. Now it appears that its effects are written on the body before a child is even born.

Blog Posts

#BlackLivesMatter

“Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.”

Does that headline get your hackles up? It got mine up. But then I read the article, and it was devastating. The author describes the experience of hoping that this time, someone would care that an unarmed black kid had been killed by the police. Maybe this time, someone would think that Mike Brown — and his community — had gotten far worse than they deserved. Until people went looking for reasons why he must have brought it on himself.

For a moment there, things were looking pretty good. A boy shot multiple times with his hands up. College bound. Poor. Innocent. And in response: helicopters and tanks. Maybe this time, we thought, they would believe us.

But that’s all been ruined.

We now have all sorts of reasons to make us doubt Brown’s humanity. He may have stolen some cigarillos. He may have been facing the officer when he was shot. He got shot in the top of the head, which might mean that he was surrendering, or might mean he was being defiant. He made amateur rap songs. Perhaps worst of all, he’s been caught grimacing at a camera making a contorted peace sign, and it turns out that he was pretty tall.

And Fox News has been trying to cast doubt on whether he was actually going to go to college in the first place.

All signs that his life was worth less than we might have hoped.

The inevitable had happened. Apologists for police violence had successfully painted Mike Brown as a “thug” who deserved what he got. If the question is “what could a black person do that would make their death not their own fault?”, there’s no answer. The question should be “why are black people required to prove — over and over again, in a rigged game — that they don’t deserve to be killed?”

Remember literacy tests for voting? They were ostensibly in place to ensure that applicants were educated enough to qualify as voters. But in reality:

Determination of who “passed” and who “failed” was entirely up to the whim of the Registrar of Voters — all of whom were white. In actuality, whites almost always “passed” no matter how many questions they missed, and Blacks almost always “failed’ in the selective judgement of the Registrar.

If you don’t want to grant someone a status in the first place, any excuse to revoke it will do. So it is with the right not to be killed. If people wanted to see an 18-year-old black man as a fully human person deserving of the right to life, then video of him allegedly swiping a handful of cigars and shoving a store clerk wouldn’t change that. Photos of him making a hand signal wouldn’t change that. Rap lyrics wouldn’t change that. That he was tall and heavy wouldn’t change that. How do I know? Because white people miss those questions on the humanity test, as it were, all the time without being dismissed as thugs who need killing.

For obvious reasons, nobody who considers themselves pro-life should embrace an ideology that requires human beings to pass tests to be considered worthy of living.

And speaking of pro-life, consider this: In the United States, the abortion rate is highest among black women. Black women in America have 40 abortions per 100,000 women — almost 4 times the rate among non-Hispanic white women. That’s 360,000 black lives ending in abortion every year. That’s who knows how many black women ending up in clinics like Kermit Gosnell’s. How many of those abortions would have been avoided if black Americans, on average, had the same healthcare, access to resources, and life prospects as white Americans? If we acted like black lives, born and unborn, really matter?

Blog Posts, Past Actions

Petition the Indian Health Service to make Plan B accessible to Native American women

A February 2012 report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center details the barriers faced by women who need emergency contraception from the Indian Health Service. One in three Native American women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and yet women are often denied access to the care they need to prevent pregnancy.

The only pharmacist on most reservations is within the local Indian Health Service. Women who need Plan B report that IHS pharmacies often do not stock Plan B, refuse to provide it without a prescription, and sometimes shame women who ask for it.

Please ask IHS director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux to issue a directive to all service providers that emergency contraception be made available on demand — without a prescription and without having to see a doctor — to any woman age 17 or over who asks for it.

Blog Posts

How Best to Abolish Female Feticide?

Abortion opponents in the US are talking about the horrendous numbers of sex selective abortions in some Asian nations, especially India and China. Kristen Walker Hatten, for example, writes at LifeNews.com about the “horrifying, misogynistic third-world practice of gendercide.”

But she doesn’t offer any plans for transforming the cultural conditions that lead to such wide-scale abortion of baby girls, before or after birth, except to legally ban it. Never mind that in India, for example, there are already legal restrictions on sex selective abortion. And yet it continues, because violence against girls and women at all phases of life persists.

Walker Hatten concludes that if you don’t support a legal ban, you don’t care about the problem. She asks, “Where are the feminists?” when both prolife and prochoice feminists have been speaking up and agitating for years. She seems even less informed about feminists from within India, for example, who both support abortion rights and seek to abolish sex-selective abortion in conjunction with other lethal practices against girls and women. She would do well to familiarize herself with Rita Banerji of the 50 Million Missing Campaign, for one.

Walker Hatten is also quite problematic when she speaks of gendercide as a specifically “third-world practice” that has spread into the US via immigrants. In the process, she trivializes or renders invisible and inaudible any resistance from within Asian countries to sex selective abortion. She simultaneously obscures the violence against women and girls that is also epidemic in the US culture and contributes to the incidence of abortion there and in many other countries, according to recent scientific literature.

Her argument, like that of many other US abortion opponents, draws, however intentionally or not, upon a centuries-old view of brown, non-Christian, “uncivilized,” “unenlightened” people as uniquely guilty of barbarities against women–and white Christians as their “civilized,” “emlightened” saviors from their misogyny. As if violence against women and girls was not a curse of all religions, cultures, and nations; how else is it that one in three females worldwide has been subjected to gender-based violence?

But her argument, like all too many arguments from US abortion opponents, doesn’t help to abolish female feticide. Such antiabortionists hold one part of humankind responsible while letting another part off the hook, or off too lightly. And their accusation that feminists don’t care cuts off the possibilities of cooperative action with feminists, whether prolife or prochoice, who do care profoundly, and in fact have been seeking and working for much deeper, more decisive solutions than a legal ban for a long time.

We agree with Walker Hatten, of course, that female feticide is horrifying and should be abolished. We also believe that unless prenatal lives are generally treated as if they have inherent value, it is much more difficult to make a case, whether legal, ethical, or cultural, against aborting one specific group of fetuses.

But we cannot accept her blanket accusations about feminist indifference or complicity, let alone the attitudes regarding race, religion, culture, and nationality that arguments like hers encode, intentionally or not. In fact, if we didn’t care about abolishing gendercide, why would we risk the wrath of the US antiabortion movement as such?

Blog Posts, Past Actions

Justice for Trayvon Martin and his parents

Most of the talk of reproductive rights in mainstream politics and media in the United States revolves around not bearing children. Family planning advocates, ourselves included, argue for sex education and access to contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy. Pro-choice advocates argue for a right not to bear children who have been conceived.

What is too often neglected in the mainstream discourse is the right to have children, and to raise them safely and with dignity. One reproductive right that women of color do not have in this country is the right to raise their children free of the fear that their babies will be killed because they are “suspicious.”

Trayvon Martin
was a 17-year-old African American who was visiting family in Sanford, Florida. On February 26, during halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, he walked to a nearby store to get candy for his brother and a can of tea for himself. As he walked back to his father’s home, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up against the rain, he was spotted by the (self-appointed, as far as I’ve been able to tell) Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, thought Trayvon looked “like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.” He called 911, then told the dispatcher “these assholes, they always get away” and “he’s running.” Zimmerman left his SUV and followed Martin, despite being told by the 911 dispatcher that he didn’t need to and a squad car was on the way. Neighbors reported hearing a fight, and cries for help. On one 911 tape, cries and a gunshot can be heard. When police arrived, Trayvon Martin was dead — shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed he had acted in self-defense. Sanford police accepted his explanation, saying that they had no probable cause to believe otherwise, despite the fact that Zimmerman shot an unarmed minor with whom he had needlessly initiated a confrontation.

Trayvon Martin had no history of violence or misbehavior, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system. George Zimmerman has a history of belligerent behavior, and was not tested for drugs or alcohol.

I think of how devastated I would be if this happened to my daughter. I also know that it wouldn’t happen to my white daughter; she will never be found guilty of Walking While Black. If she were killed while walking down the street on a simple errand, police would pursue and charge her killer. So while I stand in solidarity with Trayvon’s parents, I also don’t presume to really know what they’re going through, or what all the parents of young men of color who fear that their sons might be next are going through.

It’s too late to help Trayvon Martin’s family keep their son alive. Here’s how you can help them with their demand for accountability for his death:

  • Sign their petition asking the Florida State’s Attorney to prosecute George Zimmerman. Or call the office of State’s Attorney Wolfinger at 407-665-6410.
  • Contact the Department of Justice to ask them to investigate the case and the reluctance of Sanford police to act.
  • Call Attorney Jasmine Rand at 850-222-3333 to give to the family’s legal fund.
  • Share this information. Follow @attorneycrump and @blacklaw18 and the #TrayvonMartin hashtag on Twitter, or “like” the Justice for Trayvon Martin page on Facebook, or follow the blogs I’ve linked here. Don’t let the case fade away without so much as a charge.