On January 22, I wrote a blog that I posted on the website of my pro-choice novel, lovemeanssecondchances.com, entitled “Open Letter to the Reproductive Rights Movement” on January 22, 2015.
That was my first mistake. That was based on my (shall we say optimistic) assumption that after last summer’s controversial New York Times article about the movement for comprehensive women’s health care and subsequent coverage in RH Reality Check, those organizations fighting for reproductive rights had met with the ones fighting for reproductive justice — and seeing the error of their ways and desiring a united movement — the reproductive rights groups had agreed to adopt reproductive justice as the all- inclusive term describing this struggle.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I offer my apologies to the reproductive justice groups for erroneously addressing my appeal to you for a national march. I should have addressed it to the reproductive rights groups.
Loretta Ross, Marlene Gerber Fried, and Dr. Zakiya Luna schooled me. Both Marlene and Zakiya referred me to Miriam Zoila Perez’s article posted on Colorlines, entitled “A Tale of Two Movements” (tinyurl.com/na6yfxv), which breaks down six basic differences between the two groups. They can be summarized in two words: race and class. Both have plagued the women’s equality movement since its founding 167 years ago — signified by Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in 1851, the segregated Women’s Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and the all-white, elitist leadership of the suffragist movement — to this very moment.
After looking at history, I believe the only way we will ever be able to end the current horrendous attacks on women’s rights by the powers that be — the overwhelmingly white, male, patriarchal, capitalist establishment — is to build a united, multiracial, multinational movement that encompasses the needs of all women, but especially of the most oppressed — the low-wage workers who are two-thirds women, the majority women of color, and immigrant, rural, young and disabled women. A divided movement cannot win, and win we must because the fate of future generations is in our hands.
As an activist who focuses on these issues and a member since 1967 of Workers World Party, which is socialist and multiracial/multinational, I am profoundly convinced that activism, or peoples’ protest, is the only way to bring about real change. That kind of change altered this country profoundly in the 1950s-60s, but issues of class were largely ignored until the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed them — which certainly contributed to his murder. Now as we see, thanks to the national Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements and the latest tragic death of an unarmed Black man in Baltimore and the righteous response there, the issues of race, class, and all kinds of injustice and inequality must be addressed for real, meaningful change to occur in this country. That’s why I proposed there be a national march for reproductive justice with slogans like ”Access to legal abortion matters,” “Black and brown children’s lives matter” and “We can’t raise families on $7.25” to show support for and allegiance with the movements already in the streets.
But a march for reproductive justice would not help our cause now that Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced her candidacy for president. It would immediately be denounced by the Republican Party and its many candidates as a way to trash Clinton and all whom they think support her. So that’s out of the question now. But it is still possible for activists demanding reproductive justice to play a positive role, as the election campaign proceeds, in challenging the anti-women issues that will surely be raised.
I received an email from the Center for Reproductive Rights about the outrageous case of Purvi Patel, the South Asian immigrant of color who was found guilty and sentenced to 41 years on March 30 in Indiana due to contradictory charges of feticide and child neglect. That’s just the attention to reproductive justice issues that’s needed to build a united, multiracial, intersectional, cross-class movement demanding human rights for all women. Let’s make sure all such issues are inclusively addressed from now on.
In sisterhood, sincerely,
An activist since 1967 in the movement for social and economic change, focusing particularly on women’s rights, especially reproductive rights and now reproductive justice. A founding member of CARASA (1977), the New York Pro-Choice Coalition (1985) and WHAM! (1989) and currently volunteer with Haven and work with the International Working Women’s Coalition. Published a pro-choice novel in 2011, which can be sourced at lovemeanssecondchances.com.