Over the last couple of weeks, a piece of precedent-breaking legislation criminalizing abortion was passed in Texas and upheld by the Supreme Court. Another court case challenging anti-abortion legislation in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, is scheduled to take place before the United States Supreme Court in December of 2021. These decisions have resounding impacts on the state and safety of reproductive healthcare in the United States and represent a harrowing expansion of state policing over the healthcare decisions of marginalized people. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) firmly supports the right to abortion and denounces efforts by the state to interfere with the safety and autonomy of folks seeking such care. In the hopes of maintaining Roe v. Wade, NLG has filed an amicus brief in the JWHO v. Dobbs case with partners at If/When/How, Project SANA, and others. We are committed to supporting reproductive rights in this critical moment.
In our capacity as a legal organization, we are concerned with the judicial and legislative precedents that may be established, as they will undoubtedly harm marginalized people. As an abolitionist organization with a commitment to people’s movements for liberation, however, NLG urges community members to look beyond protective measures of the state—in particular, toward the leadership and asks of mutual aid networks and reproductive justice organizers.
“We must fight for justice, not only for rights,” said Justice Gatson, NLG National Executive Committee member, social justice doula, and founder of the Reale Justice Network.
Abortion access is a key component of reproductive justice, a framework developed and practiced by Black feminist organizers in the South. We look to the foundational work in advancing this framework done by organizations like SisterSong, the New Georgia Project, and others, alongside countless community collectives practicing mutual aid. As defined by SisterSong, reproductive justice describes “the right to personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” NLG officially stated organization-wide support for reproductive justice at our 2018 Convention, in our Resolution Opposing the Criminalization of People’s Reproductive Lives. In maintaining the promises made in that resolution and by the very nature of abolition and transformative justice, NLG asks that folks center marginalized people most impacted by these bans and demand action beyond the courts.
We cannot divorce these policies and precedents from white supremacy. In fact, policies banning abortion are recent developments in U.S. history, and came about as an anti-Black response to the practice of midwifery. This anti-abortion law continues the legacy of racist violence that created and is practiced in gynecology by stripping pregnant people of autonomy and refusing to provide safe, affirming alternatives.
Anti-abortion laws disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as those who are undocumented, trans, queer, low-income, disabled, fat, and/or incarcerated. Among a long list of major concerns with the current state of reproductive care, modern gynecology is unwilling to meet the needs of Black people, resulting in a maternal mortality rate four times higher for Black pregnant people than their white counterparts. Medical discrimination also severely limits access to contraceptive care for fat and/or disabled people; creates conditions where transgender patients are turned away from reproductive care; engages in practices that are unsafe for undocumented folks, ranging from turning patients over to ICE to requiring forms of state-issued IDs; among others. This law exacerbates the existing fatal racism, anti-Blackness, and discrimination in medicine, leaving folks without access to safe reproductive care.
Responses to these bills and court cases absolutely must look beyond rights alone, and must include the anti-Black and oppressive reality of these events. We cannot achieve reproductive justice without also taking substantial steps in anti-racism and anti-oppression. As we work to fight for basic legal rights in the courtroom, we also commit to uplifting mutual aid efforts in areas most impacted. Please see below for more organizations doing work on-the-ground and resources for learning more about the history of reproductive justice, anti-Blackness, and abolition.
Abortion access organizations
- Yellowhammer Fund is an abortion fund centering on access in Alabama and the Deep South
- Jane’s Due Process helps minors in Texas access abortion
- The Lillith Fund is a Texas-based abortion fund
- Indigenous Women Rising promotes education and access to reproductive healthcare outside of the IHS
- Fund Texas Choice offers financial assistance for Texans traveling to abortion clinics
- Movement for Family Power does work to push back against the criminalization of marginalized families
- READING LIST: Resources on Abolition and Reproductive Justice by New River Abortion Fund
- VIDEO: The History of Reproductive Justice
- VIDEO: What is Reproductive Justice?
- BOOK: Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger
- ARTICLE: Reproductive Justice, In Our Own Voice: Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
- ARTICLE: Prison Abolition is a Key Component of Reproductive Freedom
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
Featured image: Reproductive Justice 4 All by Steve Rhodes / CC BY 2.0
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