Across the United States this Mother’s Day, the right to have control over one’s body is under attack. More than 530 abortion restrictions42 states have already introduced them. The Supreme Court is poised to deliver a lethal blow To Roe v. WadeConservative forces are preventing people from accessing reproductive health care through safe abortion, birth control, prenatal and obstetric care, as well as psychological harm.
The U.S. is still grappling with the breach of confidentialityThe looming reverse of RoeThe fight for abortion access feels more urgent now than ever. However, society tends not to see this struggle as a white, middle-class struggle, as though the theoretical right to choose to have an abortion under the law means that all people can make choices and control what happens to their bodies.
Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) feminist movements remind us that the “right” to abortion does not guarantee the resources to access it, and that if we truly care about reproductive justice for all, then we need to dismantle the institutionalized race and class oppression that obstructs many from accessing this “right.” Author Elena GuiterrezIt is a belief that reproductive justice must also include environmental justice, particularly since colonization of Indigenous lands and threats to environmental toxins have impacted fertility for many women of color. Overall, BIPOC feminists define reproductive justiceas the human right to bodily autonomy, have or deny children safely, and have children in safe and sustainable families.
Monica Simpson is the executive director of SisterSong, a reproductive justice organisation. writes:
Roe never fully protected Black women — or poor women or so many others in this country. That’s because Roe ensured the right to abortion without ensuring that people could actually get an abortion. Americans who want to have an abortion in America need to consider whether they have the financial means. How far is the nearest clinic and how do I get there. Can I work from home? Can I walk into the clinic with confidence? These questions are not often a deterrent for people who are more fortunate. They are a major obstacle to many women of colour and poor people. That’s how white supremacy works.
U.S. writers and activists like Gutiérrez, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross and Jael Silliman, and Palestinian feminists love Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian Rhoda KanaanehThe definition of reproductive has been expanded injusticeIt is important to consider the many conditions that make it difficult for colonized and people of color to control their bodies. BIPOC and decolonial feminists insist upon the right of abortion and the resources necessary to obtain it (i.e. economic resources, language/translation in medical centers, adequate sex education at all schools, and access to health care), especially considering that BIPOC women and gender-expansive individuals face particular struggles with regard to health disparities, rape, and sexual assault. systematically fails BIPOC communities were never intended to be protected.
But they have also insisted that a host of other issues should be considered reproductive injustices, such as race/class/gender-based disparities that impact birthing experiences for people of color. Colonialist and racial practices forced sterilization, “population control,” mass incarceration, and rape and sexual assault all impact BIPOC women, trans and nonbinary people’s control over their bodies.
We support what Monica Cosby and organizations such as Survived and Punished and Love and Protect and Mothers United Against Violence have to say about the patriarchal, heteropatriarchal and racist violence policing and prisons inflict upon women. women, queer, and trans people of colorBIPOC mothers, caregivers of color, who are also incarcerated and forced to live in isolation from their families and loved ones. This is why, as Black feminists abolitionists long ago stated, a broad reproductive justice movement must seriously consider the violence of police and prisons. trickles down far beyond prison walls.
As Black feminists Mariame Kaba, Andrea J. Ritchie, Dorothy Roberts Charity Tolliver teach us, reproductive injustice is inherent to the prison-industrial complex — including the foster care-to-prison pipeline. Through policing, imprisonment, and detention, the state disproportionately denies BIPOC and gender-expansive women the chance to give birth to and/or care for their children during and following their imprisonment. It also takes away the opportunity of incarcerated people to decide if and when to have children. Medical violence dangerous prenatal careThe prison-industrial complex, which is rampant, can also deny prisoners the right to have children. Furthermore, organizations such as Love and ProtectIt is important to note that the U.S. routinely incarcerates women and gender-expansive peopleColors like Bresha Meadows Marissa Alexanderfor their defense against gender-based violence.
What MAMAS Teach Us
Mothers and caregivers who have worked with the collective we co-founded with Johnaé Strong, Mamas Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity (MAMAS), teach us that the state’s removal of a child from a mother or caregiver is also a feminist reproductive justice issue. This is a fact that is not widely recognized in our society.
Cindy Soto, a Lakota member, is the daughter of a mother who survived Indigenous boarding schools. Soto teaches us the U.S.’s legacy of separating Indigenous children from their families continues to traumatize mothers and caregivers and takes away their capacity to pass on traditions and languages to their children.
As with the forced removal of Indigenous children from the U.S., family separations resulting in police-perpetrated violence and the incarceration and protection of migrants by the U.S. deny mothers and caregivers the ability to parent, care for, and protect their children with dignity.
One group of activists who are working with MAMAS calls themselves Mothers of the Kidnapped(MOK), and includes people such as Bertha Escamilla, April Ward, Esther Hernández, Armanda Shackelford, Regina Russell, Denice Bronis, Christina BorizovRosemary Cade, Frank Ornelas, papa and caregiver. They parent individuals who were incarcerated through police-perpetrated torture and frame-ups: Nick Escamilla, Mickiael Ward, Juan and Rosendo Hernández, Gerald Reed, Tamon Russell, Matthew Echevarria, Johnny Borizov, Antonio Porter and Robert Ornelas.
These families aren’t the only ones. Chicago is known as the U.S.’s torture capital. Despite a formal apology by the city for the heinous crimes perpetrated by police officers in 2015 and a historic reparations plan resulting from the tireless labor of social movements, hundreds of torture survivorsYou can remain in prison or be stuck in a criminal justice system that was not meant for people of color.
Our reproductive justice vision insists that the state’s kidnapping of these individuals has wreaked psychological, physical, and financial havoc on the lives of their mothers and caregivers. We insist that mothers of victims of police-perpetrated violent acts are survivors of violent policing, prison systems and their caregivers. The care of survivors of police violence is a feminist freedom fight.
In prisonerating migrants is also a feminist issue of reproductive justice. Fernanda Castellanos is a MAMAS comrade and organizer. Organized Communities Against Deportations, teaches us about the profound impact of family separations on a mother or caregiver’s ability to nurture loved ones. “Most mothers are terrified of what will happen to their children if they get deported. They don’t always want their children back in their country because it’s not so safe. Mothers are trying to protect their children while worrying about their asylum case or whether they will be deported,” she says.
Castellanos claims that the carceral system also uses tools to criminalize migrant mothers or caregivers. These tools include electronic monitoring (also called e-carceration), as well as racist state and media rhetoric.
These complex reproductive injustices are a major reason for prison abolition
U.S.-Backed Israeli Settler Colonialism Is Also Feminist Reproductive Justice Matter
Our palestinian compatriots in the labor of mothering remind us to consider the global reach and targeting of the U.S. prison system and its targeting of mothers. The U.S. exports settler colonialism and carceral system, including state and non-state actors, like the Anti-Defamation LeagueSending police to train in Israel; U.S. Israel sharing informationAbout Palestinian activists; and how the U.S. failed to hold Israel responsible for its refusal to allow U.S. citizens, particularly Palestinian Americans, into Israel.
Given the U.S.-Israeli alliance, there is no surprise that Israeli occupation forces engages with similar forms of reproductive injustice as those found in U.S. jails and policing methods. The U.S. system severs BIPOC mothers and their children in a way that is disproportionately influenced by people of color, which serves the purpose of protecting capitalism. Israel also separates Palestinian mothers and their children by using violent systems of policing, imprisonment, and other means to repress an occupied people.
The focus of the investigation is now on Ahmad Manasra’s arrest and torture. US Palestinian Community Network’s campaignAhmad Manasra must be released. Manasra was 13 years old when he was arrested. He continues to languish in Israeli jail despite his declining mental health. A video of his trial shows his mother shouting in the background, “Hey, hey, I want to hug him. We are here, Ahmad, we love you.”
In order to maintain these reproductive injustices the U.S. & Israel dehumanize BIPOC caregivers and mothers as if they are responsible for social problems such as gun violence and war. Every MOK member has been subject to racist-sexist treatment in court, during prison visits on the phone, and in the Courtroom.
Elected officials and corporate media also blame mothers of individuals violated or killed by the police for their children’s death. The conservative media blamed Elizabeth Toledo for her son Adam’s killing at the hands of Chicago police. Palestinian mothersFace similar political rhetoric to punish Palestinian resistance. Nada Elia, a Palestinian feminist notes that Ayelet Shaked, an Israeli Member in Knesset, is similar to Palestinian resistance. referenced Palestinian children as “little snakes,” attacking their mothers for raising “terrorists.” Casting Palestinian resistance as the root of the problem is one means Israel has used to move attention away from occupation and apartheid — frequently with support from U.S. politicians.
BIPOC Caregivers Lead Towards an Anti-Imperialist, Abolitionist Movement for Reproductive Justice
The interconnected systems of policing and prisons, settler-colonialism, and migrant detentions and deportations undermine the capacity to control one’s body and to parent, nurture and protect loved ones, communities and lands. We need an antiimperialist, abolitionist movement for reproductive justice that is led and influenced by the fierce power and wisdom BIPOC members who have been responsible in their mothers’ care and the caretaking of their communities under state violence.
MOK members, along with the Campaign to Free Incarcerated Survivors of Police Torture, are demanding the office of the state’s attorney in Chicago vacate convictionsFor all those framed and tortured and wrongfully sentenced, especially cases involving detectives, where there is an established pattern for torture, forced confession, and wrongful convictions.
CastellanosAbuelita was assisted by Organized Communities Against Deportations Genoveva Ramirez winAfter refusing her acceptance, her legal case was filed detentionPotential deportation. The Chicago community strongly supported her and her grandson in their effort, in part because local activists have been organizing for years against misconduct by “law enforcement” officials.
Palestinian mothers are fighting for justice in Israeli prisons — from demanding access to phone calls to access to women doctors, to meeting and hugging their children, and to freedom from incarceration and colonization.
While the state may separate BIPOC mothers and caregivers from their loved ones in different ways and to different degrees, shared reproductive justice struggles persist and connect us — from the U.S. to Palestine — through the determination to live, love, mother and caretake in contexts free from all forms of violence.
Where the state steals one’s capacity to mother, an expansive reproductive justice movement committed to abolishing borders, prisons, and policing and to a free Palestine envisions self-determination, healing, strength and hope.
Some dominant strands of society are slow to recognize that state violence, which includes separating mothers and caregivers, is a feminist reproductive justice problem. BIPOC mothers and organizers and community caretakers will fight to ensure that every person has the right and resources to care for a child.
All people deserve access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. We must also demand our right to control our bodies and live freely. Let’s free the loved ones tortured and caged by agents of the state, nurture and protect each other, rebuild our communities, and live in freedom even after all the news headlines have faded, when the camera lights have dimmed, when hashtags no longer serve their purpose, and when the streets that were once lined with protesters have emptied out.
This Mother’s Day, a more expansive understanding of feminist reproductive justice is needed — one that is broader and more courageous than the limited agenda long set by white, middle-class movements that prioritize rights under the law, failing to adequately wrestle with the fact that institutionalized racism, classism, heterosexism, imperialism and settler-colonialism are baked into the law itself.