Roe: A Moment for Antiracist Governing

Monica Simpson of SisterSong reminded us just last month in her New York Times piece that we have never built a democracy where every person’s bodily autonomy is respected, and where dignified, comprehensive health care is universally accessible. Simpson’s vision of a future in which all people have the rights, access, protections, and power to realize their fullest potential is entirely possible when we embrace our nation’s greatest possibility as a flourishing multiracial democracy. Instead of leaning into this future, our nation's leaders are choosing a path of hate and harm. The anticipated dismantling of Roe vs. Wade erases nearly 50 years of reproductive rights and is a grave step backwards in the very moment we should be stepping forward. 

For decades, gender- and reproductive-justice advocates – and especially Black, Indigenous, and Latina women and queer people of color – have tirelessly fought not only for the right to bodily autonomy for every person, but also for access to the care and services necessary to see that right fulfilled. The leaked preliminary decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and yesterday’s failure by the US Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 reinforce how urgent this work is and elevate the critical need to build a multiracial democracy in which every person’s rights are honored and fulfilled.     

These attacks are neither new nor novel. Since 2010, state legislatures have passed more than 500 restrictions on abortion access, creating disproportionately greater barriers to comprehensive reproductive care for low-income Indigenous, Black, and Brown people living in the South, parts of the Southwest, and the Midwest – the same places where elected leaders have invoked a slate of oppressive legislative tactics to suppress low-income communities of color, including egregious acts of gerrymandering and voter suppression. In this American political system, which was built for the success of the few and where marginalization has been the norm, Roe must stand, but it cannot stand alone. We must simultaneously uphold, protect, and expand the reproductive rights we have secured for women, people of color, transgender people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups while building new, radically inclusive political systems that enable the flourishing of a multiracial democracy.

Building on the legacy of gender- and reproductive-justice leaders of color, this is a moment for our representatives to prioritize a governing agenda that is inclusive and antiracist; that names the shortcomings of our laws, policies, and political processes; and that centers the strategies of impacted people of color to fix them. We commend advocates across the country as they call on state and local electeds to pass legislation to protect and expand the reproductive rights of women, people of color, transgender people, and other marginalized communities.

Congress must codify the universal right to an abortion. And, Congress must adopt the long-standing priorities of gender- and reproductive-justice organizers, including:

  • Reversing the Hyde Act and other restrictions on use of federal funds to cover the cost of abortion services for low-income people who are pregnant, and equitably expand access to comprehensive, unbiased, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health care, including family planning and reproductive care.
  • Requiring health insurance companies to cover reproductive health-care services, including abortion.
  • Concretizing the child family tax credit and passing federal paid family and medical leave legislation.

By unleashing our radical imagination, exercising transformative solidarity, and harnessing the fortitude that has sustained our communities, together we can win the multiracial democracy that allows every person to have autonomy over their body, and ensures that all people can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Together we can win on equity.