Women of Color Need Human Rights, Not Concessions

I don’t agree that President-elect Obama should only seek “common
ground” on abortion and avoid standing up for the rights of poor women
in our society.

As an organization that represents both pro-life and pro-choice women
of color, SisterSong believes that poor women should have the same
rights and access as middle class women in making decisions about our
bodies. But the Hyde Amendment and other federal rules prohibit federal
funding for abortion services for poor women on Medicaid, for Native
American women in the Indian Health Services, for women in the military
and in the Peace Corps. As a first step, the Hyde Amendment should be
repealed — immediately!

The government should not be in the business of telling us what to do
with our reproductive choices. These are our private decisions. The
situation is comparable to choosing to fly in an airplane. The
government should not tell us which airline to use, which destination
to choose or if we should fly at all. But the government does have an
obligation to ensure that the airlines are safe, that the airfares are
affordable and that the airports are accessible. The questions of
safety, affordability and accessibility are necessary to enable our
private decisions to be meaningful.

The same is true when it comes to abortion. Poor women demand the right
to safe, affordable and accessible conditions in which to implement our
private decisions on whether or not to have children. A manufactured
“consensus,” claiming that the new administration should not fight for
the reproductive rights of poor women, is simply wrong.

For more than 30 years, we’ve fought as women of color for the rights
of poor women. We will not stand silently or meekly while others advise
the administration that our needs don’t matter, or that they don’t suit
bipartisan politics. Fighting for the needs of poor women is truly
bipartisan, and there are Republicans who agree with us, just as there
are pro-lifers working within our reproductive justice organizations.

If we are really entering a new phase of politics, we have to stop
selling out poor people to appease opponents of women’s human rights.
There is nothing original in that strategy.

Our real allies know that abortion rights are a fundamental part of
women’s healthcare and that women have the right to have children, to
not have children, and to parent the children we have. Political
expedience has sacrificed us for too long. “Conventional wisdom” is
neither conventional or wise if it says we should only reach for
“common ground” and forget that women who need birth control, sex
education and other reproductive health services also need abortion

As women of color, we helped elect Barack Obama – much more strongly
than the 55 percent of white America who voted against him. He should
not start his administration by betraying us to appease those who do
not share his vision of human rights for all, especially protecting the
rights of poor women of color.

This article was first published by On the Issues.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • alexm

    Thank you Loretta for highlighting this essential point.  Now that the gag rule has been repealed the Hyde amendment also must go.  The new administration would be making a monumental mistake if it ignored the needs of the working class Americans who voted them in.


    The onus is on the feminist movement as a whole though, to look beyond the differences and instead at the commonalities we share.  Only then will we be able to stand together in solidarity and demand the full range of reproductive health options for all women, regardless of class, immigration status or any other factor. 

    The personal is political.

  • invalid-0

    Loretta Ross is spot on with her commentary about poor womens right to abortion (as with ALL decisions about womens bodies, health care, parenting, etc.). It really IS all about choice.

    AND, it is only the second week our new “saviour” president’s tenure in office and concessions are already on the table regarding women’s (read: HUMAN) rights??? And who will be be the “conceeded”? Women, of course, and women of color and poorer women in particular. The players may change, but, sadly, it seems the storyline stays the same.

    However, we need not stand by and watch these concessions happen. Write, call, demonstrate, make a fuss — whatever is necessary to preserve choice and make sure poor women have safe and secure rights and access to abortion — and all health care!

  • invalid-0

    I found a very interesting video on human rights and put it on our blog. Life is the number one issue all human beings should be getting behind. More black babies are killed through abortion than any other race. Truly Planned Parenthood’s racist founder, Margret Sanger’s dream has come true. To discuss more please visit the new sexual revolution:


  • marysia


    Now I agree that everyone has a right to live whether born or unborn.  I too am concerned about the much higher abortion rate among African American women. Which is not due to black women being sexually irresponsible as they are historically & still so often stereotyped as being, but due to such large issues as poverty and poor health care access and the cultural devaluation of black men as well as women.


    But the "culture of life" you say you want to build does not appear to include such basic & provem abortion-reducing measures as freedom of conscience in pregnancy prevention, comprehensive sex education,  LGBT acceptance, and comprehensive poverty alleviation & other social supports before, during, & ever afterbirth.


    Addressing and alleviating the root causes of abortion cannot stop with discussions of personal sexual behavior, especially sectarian ones, and acts of private charity towards already pregnant women.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory, http://www.nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com

  • invalid-0

    The one thing that I find interesting about all the libertines who are defending unrestrained use of sex is the way they speak as if sex is a right that every human being should have and use frequently. Of course, coming from de facto atheists, this is understandable. Our Creator gave this wonderful gift to us as the highest expression of union and love between a male husband and a female wife. The proper context for the sexual act is only in the marital union.

    Speaking as a man who has been a sex-obsessed teenager because no one took the time to instruct me and teach me that this act is holy and belongs to marriage, I will tell you that not only did I use many women in the same manner one uses a Kleenex (one use and throw away), thus making objects of them, but that this lifestyle and thinking easily invaded my marriage and robbed my wife of the joy of being loved because I only understood sex as a means to an end and her as an object of that means.

    Liberals have taken something very special and sacred and made it dirty and commonplace. In doing so, they have reduced women, whom they claim to care about, to objects of men’s pleasure.

    You want abortions to stop? Teach women that they can say NO! to their men and that a real MANLY and loving man will be able to both control himself and LOVE his wife by respecting her wishes. Stop teaching people that we are nothing more than animals who cannot control our urges and must give into any passion that overtakes us.

    There is no such thing as the “right” to abortion, anymore than there is for a man to have the “right” to rape a woman just because he wants to do so. Another life is involved. If you do not wish to become pregnant, do not have sex! Is that so hard to understand? Learn to control your body and your passions as your Creator intended that you do. Learn to say NO!!

    • pcwhite

      Speaking as a man who has been a sex-obsessed teenager because no one took the time to instruct me and teach me that this act is holy and belongs to marriage, I will tell you that not only did I use many women in the same manner one uses a Kleenex (one use and throw away), thus making objects of them, but that this lifestyle and thinking easily invaded my marriage and robbed my wife of the joy of being loved because I only understood sex as a means to an end and her as an object of that means.

      Way to completely abdicate responsibility for your asshole misogyny.  Ditto with the "learn to say no!" bit – please tell me why it’s only WOMEN who need to control themselves.


  • colleen



    Well, most socially conservative males use women like Kleenex which is part of the reason why no decent, self respecting women date them.  You don’t appear able to stop trying to use women like kleenex. look at what you’re attempting here…. lecturing good and decent women you’re entirely ignorant of not on what we actually think about or feel but on what you, an ignorant, frightened man whose hated of women is obvious, fantasize we think and feel. And then you pretend to be morally superior and offer us a lecture on, not what we think and say and do, but what your gutter mind imagines we think and feel and do.


     Sad, really, that The Church produces so many unmarriagable men.


    • invalid-0

      You know, if I were to be given the ability to draw, and had the opportunity to draw a picture of most men, I would draw a Neanderthal. You know, the picture of the guy who has just bashed the woman on the head and is now dragging her home for a little sport. Men today may not use clubs, but the damage is very much the same.

      Sorry you have such a low opinion of the Church. Perhaps a little history and reading would show you that in all the pagan countries that the Church went into, beginning with Rome, women were so much chattel. The Church changed that view. The documents of the Church are constantly calling mankind to treat each other with the love and respect that we should receive as human beings.

      Mankind is not listening.

  • invalid-0

    I’m sorry you think that I was advocating that women alone “control themselves”. I can see that by the way I wrote, one would get that feeling. I think if you kind of read what I was saying critical about my own past, you would see a condemnation of those who let “boys run wild” and of the way men act in general.

    Thanks to a perverse twisting of the 1st Ammendment, we have allowed the most degenerate filth to present women to young boys and men as nothing more than pieces of meat to be gawked at and used if possible.

    I do believe in both parties acting responsibly. I’m sorry I wasn’t a bit more clear about it.

  • pcwhite

    That is a terrible indictment of men, IrishEddie.  I hope you don’t actually believe all men are rapists at heart.  At best, that is real misandry…at worst, it acts as rape apoligism (i.e. give the menz a break, they can’t help it that they have such raging libidos.).


    I think the attitude you express offers real insight into why you think of sex as dirty and shameful.  Is it because you think the only sex is sexual violence? :/ that is certainly not the case.  That you think sex is degrading to women because it forces them to be "used" by men ignores the fact that women are sexual persons, too, who desire and enjoy sex.  It also ignores the multitude of women who have sex with women, and the men who have sex with men.  Not to mention the caring heterosexual men who treat their partners with respect and love.


    I’m fairly certain, btw, that the church was not interested in eradicating the oppression of women.  Everything I’ve read actually points to its role in perpetuating misogyny and persecution – if you can prove otherwise, I’d be interested.

  • invalid-0

    If you use someone for your pleasure and then leave, how is that essentially any different than rape? I don’t care if it is even “consensual” it is still using that other person’s body for your own pleasure and not taking the responsibility for that person’s welfare. Corporate bigwigs do this to us every day. We are just objects for them to make $$$, which is all they care about.

    Love is caring about another in an unselfish way. Unselfish means that what the other wants is more important that what I want. Tell me now that any little girl doesn’t want to grow up to be cared for, protected, treated as if she is more than a walking sex toy. Show me the girl who wants to be used and then left to fend for herself with an unwanted pregnancy.

    Are most men rapists? Look at the sex trade that goes on over in the Far East. Look at how women are treated by the Muslims. Look at how African men treat their women. This is a very sick, SICK world when it comes to how men view women.

    I do NOT think that sex is dirty. I happen to think it is wonderful. I was married to my wife for 34 years and after I was converted to Christianity, one of the things I discovered is that loving, unselfish sexual love between us was far better than one night stands. There is a spiritual dimension to mankind that liberals are unwilling to acknowledge. That dimension colors us and affects us in our relationships. There is a real bonding that takes place in the sexual act. It was intended by our Creator.

    Spiritually we live out in the flesh what we are in the spirit. What does it say about a man who would go from woman to woman? Does it say that he really knows what love is?

  • invalid-0

    I think you make an excellent point, IrishEddieOHara. Men could practically eliminate abortion altogether by refusing to have sex. Without male sperm, no woman would be impregnated, and without being impregnated, she can’t run out and get an abortion. (Think of the statistically verifiable low levels of abortion caused by men in Guantanamo and other prisons.) Granted, some women might turn to sperm banks rather than in-person sperm delivery to bear children, but they aren’t likely to seek abortions, and men could boycott that, as well. Men do not need to be used in this way! They are portrayed so horribly in the media as only caring about ejaculation; wrong, wrong wrong. I think you have the beginnings of an excellent Men’s Movement, and should pursue it! Demand the Male Boycott of All Sex to End Abortion. You’ve got the motto already: Men: Just Say No!

  • invalid-0

    How about “Just say NO! till marriage!”

    Remember, I am not against sex. I am against the misuse of it.

  • pcwhite

    not everyone wants to get married.  Or can.  And married women still get pregnant and have abortions.  :|


    fyi, sex of which you do not approve is not automatically a "misuse."  this really isn’t that difficult…

  • pcwhite

    Why are you so keen on making assholes the default men?  There are undoubtedly a lot of assholes who use women and leave, but they are not the majority, and that behaviour is not innate to men.  Your experience is not universal – you don’t act as the ambassador of all male persons.  If you’re an asshole, then okay – just don’t extrapolate that onto all the men on this planet.


    While it is true that "real bonding" often occurs during sex, that is not necessarily what people (men AND women) want.  There are other functions of sex…sometimes people (again, both women and men) just feel like getting their jollies, and that is perfectly fine, so long as both partners have the same expectations.  It’s not using somebody if you both only wanted a one-night stand.


    I somehow doubt that you’ve met many "liberals" in real life.  We’re not unwilling to acknowledge a spiritual side to sex.  Perhaps you’ve come to this conclusion because we don’t think spirituality is the ONLY legitimate dimension to sexuality.

  • http://www.yumuzika.com invalid-0

    Loretta you have posted an inspiring article and I deeply can only agree to you. It is true that people don´t spend so much attention to the need of colored women as they should do and so I wan to thank you for this posting.