Sexuality in Color: Some Reproductive Justice Heroes

sexuality in colorAlright friends, this week I’m here to address one thing and one thing only: the obtrusive attempts being made to restrict people’s access to affordable and safe abortion⁠ care throughout the United States.

I have direct experience working in reproductive health and a lot of comfort understanding and navigating policy, but even I am feeling overwhelmed and confused by all of what’s been going on and how it’s being reported. And frankly, my worry is that if this is possible for someone with a lot of personal and professional experience in this arena, what's happening for those who aren’t familiar?

In case you’ve lost track of what’s transpired over the last several weeks, we now have at least nine states in the United States where policy makers are putting in overtime in an effort to rollback rights, limit access to abortion and resources for abortion care. For some basics, check out⁠ this NPR article, Early Abortion Bans: Which States Have Passed Them?

Unfortunately for those of us working to expand access and resources to safe abortion care, the attempt of political conservatives to regress and reinstate paternalistic oppression doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, if ever. But there’s also been some good news, not just worldwide -- like rape survivors in Kenya winning the right to abortion in a landmark court ruling! -- but stateside. While Some States Try to Ban Abortion, These States Are Expanding Access and have all signed laws that will protect and expand reproductive care in the coming months. Take the Illinois Reproductive Health Act for example, a series of provisions just signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker last week, which will provide unprecedented access to reproductive health and abortion care.

There are a number of ways we can virtually hold space and support each other in both the good news and the terrible. My contribution for today is the following list of diverse and trustworthy voices on the frontlines of reproductive rights and justice that speak to me. May you find some support and comfort in at least one of the these resources:

• If you have to start with one organization, I think the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) is the one. NNAF is an established organization (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary last fall) made up of a network of 70+ organizations throughout the U.S. working diligently to remove barriers to abortion and reproductive healthcare. NNAF is fully committed to helping people, especially the most marginalized and most directly affected by barriers to abortion access. Their organizing is strongly centered around the intersections of racial, economic and reproductive justice.

At the helm of NNAF is Yamani Hernandez, their Executive Director, who does an amazing job curating culturally relevant and timely information (I especially enjoy following along via Twitter). Yamani is highly respected throughout the reproductive justice (RJ) community and has earned a reputation for being a fierce advocate and eloquent storyteller who's able to inspire people to take swift action. If you’re looking for a voice you can trust who has an intersectional lens and always up-to-date on the latest and greatest regarding abortion and reproductive justice, look no further.

Here’s a recent interview feautring Yamani, The "Auntie Network" Already Exists, where they propose a simple call to action: if you want to get involved, do your best to join existing efforts rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

• Since we’re already talking about NNAF, I encourage you to also check out We Testify, an initiative sponsored by NNAF that expands the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere with the goal of helping people understand the complexity of navigating safe abortion care. This project reminds us that no two stories are alike and that the needs associated with abortion care are as diverse as the people who need services.

• Speaking of abortion stories, I’d like to highlight this abortion story throwback featuring Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, a trans and GNC Afro-Latinx femme⁠ who decided to share their own story in an effort to advocate for nonbinary⁠ abortion access. This was originally produced by All Access Coalition back in 2016 and was shared by the Editors of Everyday Feminism in this post.

The acknowledgment of diverse voices and leaders in Reproductive Justice wouldn’t be possible without the one and only Loretta Ross, cofounder and former National Coordinator of SisterSong. Loretta is a renowned RJ pioneer and leader who’s played a significant role in advancing an inclusive agenda reflective of the diverse needs of Black women and people of color whose narratives, according to Ross, were not often reflected in the original feminist movement.

Loretta is currently a Visiting Professor of Practice in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University where she teaches "Reproductive Justice Theory and Practice" and "Race and Culture in the U.S." While she may no longer be at SisterSong, she leaves a behind a lasting legacy that will forever be inspired by her tenacity and commitment to inclusion.

If you’re unfamiliar with Loretta Ross or the RJ framework as a whole, it’d be worth your time to start with a few of her presentations:

Another organization uplifting women, nonbinary and Indigenous people of color and their families is Forward Together. This 30-year-old organization has prioritized helping people access to healthcare (including abortion care), family recognition and safe communities. They also lead the Strong Families Network, which is home to over 200 local, state and national organizations committed to ensuring that all families have the rights, resources and recognition they need to grow and thrive.

• Last, but certainly not least...I’ve got the perfect TL;DR resource for anyone who is short on time or simply experiencing information overload: this Self-Reflection Syllabus to Decolonize Your Feminism, an amazing essential reading list compiled by National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) that can help get you more familiar with RJ in a jiffy!

This list is in no way fully comprehensive, but I think it’s got some really good places to start. I encourage you to explore their websites and follow them on social media!

In solidarity,

Similar articles and advice

  • Gabriel Leão

Reproductive health nurse and former Kibera clinic director for Family Health Options, Melvine Ouyo from Kenya recently visited the American Congress to advocate against the Global Gag Rule and talked with us at Scarleteen about how this foreign policy affects Kenyans and controls and overrules women, girls and others with a uterine system.