Depending on where you live in the country, you may have gone to sleep or woken up to the news that the United States Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights.
Yes, according to a leaked draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alioto, the nation’s highest court has plans to ban access to abortion for all birthing people by striking down the landmark Roe v. Wade.
Experts say this move could further restrict healthcare access for Black women and girls.
We sat down with Janette Robison Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness — a Los Angeles-based woman-centered organization working on reproductive justice issues impacting Black women and girls — to discuss what exactly this means for Black birthing people.
WORD IN BLACK: What is your response to the news?
JANETTE ROBINSON FLINT: I am dismayed. I am angry about the ways that the Supreme Court is going…78% of Black women do not approve of the overturn of Roe v. Wade. 85% of Black women will support someone they love who chooses to have an abortion. With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, what it does is put women across the middle of the country at risk. They won’t be able to access abortion, and if they have to travel to another state, there is a cost of abortion. And it is unfortunate because every woman, every Black woman, deserves control, autonomy, and self-determination over her own life. It’s a basic human right. You get to say if you want to be pregnant or not.
WIB: Considering our unique experiences as Black women and birthing people, what does this mean specifically for us?
JRF: It means it will be harder to exercise your right to abortion. It means it will be harder to exercise basic human rights to healthcare that is accessible, safe, and affordable — as well as legal. So, that’s what it means for folks who are able to give birth. For Black women or Black people, in particular, we have always had challenges accessing the healthcare we need or deserve in this country. There’s a system where racism is embedded — it is baked into the system. It is baked into the healthcare system from education, in terms of how they train doctors; from media, in terms of the stereotypes of Black folks; from economics, in terms of do we make the same money.
Because racism is so baked in, when they — they being, in this case, the Supreme Court of the United States — decides nobody has this right to abortion anymore, that they can overturn Roe v. Wade, what does that say about the folks who have been least able to access the system? What doors will that close for us? And particularly, when we look at places like Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana — states where they have lots of Black people but very little healthcare, this means even less healthcare.
WIB: What can people who are interested in securing access to abortion do to get involved?
JRF: This is one of the places where both long-term and short-term voting matters.
- VOTE: Who we elect into office matters because they are voting on the laws, on the distribution of resources that impact our daily lives. Now, a lot of people think when we say ‘voting matters,’ we’re talking about the president or senators. But I’m talking down-ballot about the city council people, about the state people, about the propositions, and importantly, about the judges.
Judges are on ballots also. So we have to look at who we’re putting in the pipeline for the Supreme Court. I think it’s absolutely amazing that now we have a Black woman that’s going to the Supreme Court, but it’s a point where it’s 6-3, in terms of liberal votes. But for her to move through the ranks of law school, being a judge, being a prosecutor, being a defense attorney—we have to think about those spots, too, because we’re voting for judges. We’re voting for DAs’. We’re voting for those people too. So, voting matters. That’s top of the line.
- CALL YOUR REPS: What we can do right now is call the people who represent you. Call your city council people. Call your state. Call your Congressperson. Call the Senate. And let them know that you are concerned, that you care, you’re watching, you will remember.
- GO RALLY: There are several rallies, marches, etc., that are planned…If you feel so moved, go to one of those rallies or marches because public support like that moves people. It moves the media also.
- USE SOCIAL MEDIA: There’s also social media. We have a hashtag #SomeoneYouLove, #BansOnOurBody. There are so many media outlets where you can use your social media to make a point that you’re in support of women having self-determination and autonomy over their body. Show your support via social media. Retweet. Repost. Share on Instagram. All those messages.
- JOIN AN ORGANIZATION OR DONATE: It’s so important not to be an isolated voice. There’s Black Women for Wellness, but there are reproductive justice organizations across the country that you can lend your energy or your money to because that’s the other thing you can do: make a donation.
- TALK TO YOUR FOLKS: If none of that is comfortable for you, have a conversation with the people at your dinner table. The people that you talk with on a regular and continuous basis need to have conversations. We need to have family conversations. We need to have neighbor conversations. We need to have community conversations about this because that’s how democracy works — when everybody is informed and talking about these issues. And then listen to see what they’re saying because y’all might be saying the same thing, and you might be saying something different. And if there’s something different being said about having determination over someone else’s body, then maybe you can gently tell them why it’s important that women have basic human rights and basic access to a full range and full scope of reproductive health services.
WIB: It seems that, based on what you shared, there’s something that everybody can do. For that person who may want to get involved but has never done it before — never gone to the polls, never opened their mouth to express themself — what would you say to encourage them?
JRF: All of our voices as a chorus make a difference, and I think that it is time for people to get out of their comfort zones — to choose one. Choose one place to get out of your comfort zone. If you’ve never gone to the polls, oh my God. Please go and vote. If you think to make a donation…you can do $5 a month. You can do $10 a month. You can do something that, for you, is a big step, but for those of us who are working, it is affirmation and support for what we’re doing. It’s time to move out of the comfort zone because your voice is needed.
While the leaked opinion hasn’t officially changed the law and abortion is still accesiable in some staes, the U.S. Senate has plans to vote on legislation to codify abortion rights. This means all senators will have to make clear their stance on the issue.
“Now that the court is poised to strike down Roe, it is my intention for the Senate to hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to an abortion in law,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday morning.
“A vote on this legislation is not an abstract exercise. This is as urgent and real as it gets. We’ll vote to protect a woman’s right to choose…every American is going to see on which side every senator stands.”