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Dear White Women

Jan 22, 2020

The progress of obtaining and maintaining women’s rights is not linear. Reproductive rights in the United States are focused on efforts to get and defend the legal right to abortion, and these efforts are led by predominantly white women.

What little information is provided about women of color with regard to reproductive rights tends to center on the abuses they have suffered and represents only a partial history. Most of the reproductive health organizing done by women of color in the United States has been undocumented, unanalyzed, and unacknowledged.

They will be unpacking the book, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, which highlights the role of women of color in advocating for their own interests, largely because they face very different and specific issues regarding reproductive rights that are not faced by white women.

In this second part about women’s rights, Sara and Misasha are here today to challenge the narratives!

Show Highlights:

  • As regards reproductive rights, white women tend to focus on abortion, whereas women of color tend to look at it more broadly.
  • Sterilization in exchange for benefits and forced abortion are very real experiences in the lives of women of color.
  • Choice plays a big role in rights. Choice includes “the choice to determine whether or not to have children, the choice to terminate a pregnancy, and the ability to making informed choices about contraceptive and reproductive technologies”, according to book co-author, Jael Silliman.
  • Choice implies options and that a woman’s right to determine what happens to her body is legally protected. For women of color, this ignores the fact that economic and   institutional constraints often restrict their choices.
  • It’s important for health providers to have a cultural competency, which is an understanding and respect for the cultures, traditions, and practices of a community.
  • Opposition to welfare and commitment to reduce welfare roles by supplying free birth control services to poor women were joined in a race and class direct social policy.
  • The link between coercive birth control and racism was overtly expressed by Louisiana judge, Leander Perez, in 1965 when he stated that the best way to hate a black man is to hate him before he is born.
  • Sara and Misasha provide some horrendous statistics regarding forced sterilizations against women of color in the 20th century.
  • Sara offers an exercise for white women to help them understand the differences in experience.
  • Stereotypes and myths: harmful and still working against women of color.
  • Cisgender white people have not recognized themselves as an identity group because they assume their identity to be the universal norm.
  • Many white women organizing for reproductive rights assume that their agenda includes all women because of their own white women experience.
  • In 2000 the Institute for Women & Ethnic Studies in New Orleans put forth a “Reproductive Health Bill of Rights” which, in part, reads: “All people are born free and equal with dignity and rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Historically, women of color across nations, cultures, and different religious and ethnic groups have been subject to racist exploitation, discrimination, and abuse. Manipulative, coercive, and punitive health policies and practices deprive women of color of their fundamental human rights and dignity.”

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Listen to The First Part of Sara & Misasha’s Talk About Rights Here!

Books Mentioned:

Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena Gutierrez

Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington