How Does Reproductive Justice Win?

Like many groups within the movement to preserve abortion
access, the Texas coalition had been operating in crisis mode. For years, the
Texas legislature had emitted a stream of bills taking aim at abortion, transgender
children
, immigrants, and voting rights. Niceties had fallen aside in the
relentless, fast-paced churn of the legislative session, according to caucus
member Kamyon Conner, executive director of the TEA Fund. Within this ferment,
Black organizers were worn down by a sense that they were being told what to do
by colleagues who often overlooked their expertise. Since the six-week ban
passed last year, the stakes and stress levels felt particularly high. “When
you don’t have enough resources, money, or time, and the stress is something
you can’t even quantify, I think pleasantries and compassion are some of the
first things to go,” Conner said. “We saw that playing out in this coalition.” 

The crisis, of course, was ongoing. For more than 40 years,
the right to legal abortion has been under siege. Although it came as a shock
to many people when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, the nationwide legal right to abortion had
been threatened since the moment it was won in 1973. Politicians and court watchers had predicted
the fall of Roe since at least 1989, when
the Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law
that restricted access to abortion but stopped short of striking down Roe. In 1992, Roe was imperiled again, this time by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. While some credited the case for “saving
Roe,” the court’s decision in the
case opened the floodgates for state-level restrictions that put abortion out
of reach for many low-income people. Anti-abortion state lawmakers subsequently
unleashed a relentless firehose of restrictions, demanding an endless series of
defensive maneuvers from under-resourced abortion rights groups. This battle of
attrition not only usurped the energy of the movement and desensitized abortion
rights supporters to the feeling that abortion access was in crisis, it stalled
progress on a whole host of feminist priorities, from universal childcare to
comprehensive sex education.

“We’re talking so much about abortion; what is that
taking away attention from?” asked Elena
Rebeca Gutiérrez, co-author of Undivided
Rights
and a scholar of reproductive justice. Even as recently as a few
years ago, nonconsensual sterilizations among women of color in immigrant
detention were making headlines. Another neglected issue is so-called period
poverty, Gutiérrez noted; as many as one in 10 college-age women regularly can’t afford menstrual products.