A Holistic Approach to Equitable Reproductive Healthcare

Under the Trump Administration , the bold advances that women have made over the past decades, particularly those of our Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Latinx, trans, and gender non-conforming relatives, have come under threat of regressing. We know that the first 100 days are crucial in setting the tone and establishing priorities for any administration. This is why during this time, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women’s Blueprint will be bringing these voices to the forefront. As part of a listening and discussion series, we will share the issues that matter the most to us, including the issues we need the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize as part of a feminist agenda. For this series, we are pulling together big ideas from these sessions for NOW’s blog, Say It Sister! in order to share the changes we need to see and policies we need to fight for – all in one place. The next step after listening is doing. 

On Thursday, February 25th, we discussed the bodily sovereignty that women, specifically women of color, hold through the lens of the reproductive justice (RJ) framework. Our expert panelists were Marcela Howell, an RJ advocate dedicated to mobilizing Black women as the CEO & President of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, Dr. Corrine Sanchez, an Indigenous RJ activist who serves as the Executive Director of TEWA Women United, and Jessica Lujan, a doula who serves as the Indigenous Women’s Health and Reproductive Justice Program Manager of TEWA Women United. Below are the most important solutions to advancing access to reproductive services for all individuals, especially BIPOC people. 

  • Reproductive Justice as Repro Framework: While the reproductive rights and freedom frameworks focus on keeping family planning services legal and accessible, reproductive justice, founded by BIPOC women, broadens the scope by extending bodily sovereignty to sexuality, gender, work, and reproduction. Fundamentally, reproductive justice is the activist framework that works to ensure every individual’s right to social, political, and economic justice to make healthy decisions for their body. 
  • Integrating and Recognizing Doula Care: The pandemic has only exacerbated the need for birth justice. Doulas are advocates who support pregnant people emotionally and medically. Throughout history, many Indigenous communities have had doulas integral to birthing. Jessica Lujan discusses that institutions do not recognize the validity of doula care even though they are proven to decrease low birth rates, increase the likelihood of vaginal birth, increase lactation production and duration, and contribute to birth equity. 
  • Climate Justice is Reproductive Justice: As the climate crisis continues to escalate, so do the issues of health and wellness of BIPOC women. The preservation of land is fundamental to reproductive justice. Just as capitalism creates owners of land, bodies are commodified in the process. The building of infrastructure such as highways destroys predominantly Black and Indigenous communities, displacing those communities and making family planning more difficult. 
  • Centering BIPOC Healing and Joy during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Finally, all the panelists stressed that one of the best ways to resist is to center healing and joy within BIPOC communities. Though we are all in separate places, communities formed virtually allow RJ organizers to resist through community healing. These spaces validate the experiences of BIPOC, giving them room to heal from the traumatic wounds of oppression. Even merely by existing, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color resist against the white-supremacist, patriarchal structures meant to oppress them.  

Lastly, the panelists stressed that there is still work to do. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 would implement comprehensive standards to reduce the rates of birth mortality, expand healthcare access to BIPOC women, and actively fight against climate change- related risks for mothers and their children. Call on your U.S. Representative and Senator to support this crucial piece of Reproductive Justice legislation. 

You can watch a recording of the full event here. 

Check out future events in this series here

Prachi Jhawar, NOW Digital Media Intern 

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