Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered.


Editor’s note: Read all of RH Reality Check’s coverage of this racist anti-choice campaign.

This article is part of a series appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include those by Pamela Merrit, Gloria Feldt, Kelley Robinson, Maame-Mensima Horne, Jodi Jacobson, Susan Cohen, and Carole Joffe.

At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.

Women of color within the reproductive rights and justice movement have brought light to the policies (often perpetuated by our own government, medical providers and researchers) that serve the mission of population control within our communities. We’ve fought back against the connections and alliances with those in the environmental rights movement who blame the challenges of resource scarcity on women of color and their family size.

We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.

We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.

In the Latina community, we’ve dealt with all sorts of attempts at controlling our families. In addition to welfare family caps and abusive immigration policies, we’ve also got a long history of sterilization abuse. The height of this was in the 1970s, when Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and others discovered that doctors and residents at a Los Angeles hospital had sterilized hundreds of Mexican women, without their knowledge or full consent. We’re talking women being asked to sign consent forms in languages they did not speak, being lied to and told that the procedure was reversible, or being offered sterilization in the midst of labor.

The result of this was a major organizing push by CESA—Committee to End Sterilization Abuse–to enact federal informed consent laws for sterilization. They won, and in 1976 these laws were enacted, mandating processes for informed consent, waiting periods for sterilization consent, and forms that had to be in the patient’s language, among other things.

But the fight did not end there. We’ve also dealt with a campaign to bring the population growth in Puerto Rico to zero—which actually worked in some cities, according to the documentary La Operación. Sterilization promotion was the primary tool here as well.

These days, the abuses are less obvious and more insidious. When I worked with pregnant Latina immigrants in Pennsylvania, I saw their options limited by the technicalities of their emergency Medicaid coverage. They could get sterilized, for free, right after their deliveries. But if they wanted the pill, the shot, or some other short term birth control? They were out of luck.

But what we know is that reproductive justice isn’t just about freedom from coercive sterilization. It’s also about access to a full range of reproductive technologies, whether that’s birth control, sterilization, abortion or even childbirth. Rodriguez-Trias understood this, which is why she formed CARASA a decade after CESA. CARASA, the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse, understood that women needed options across the spectrum of reproductive technologies in order to truly achieve reproductive freedom. It’s clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide vital services to low-income Latinas, many of whom are uninsured.

Latinas and other women of color don’t need to be protected by paternalistic ideologues motivated by a political agenda that disregards the needs of women of color and their families. So thanks for your concern, anti-choicers, but I think the women of color advocates working within the reproductive justice movement have got it covered. We’re working in those clinics you attack, we’re helping to shape policies and provide services in our communities, services that allow us to decide what our needs are.

We know whom we can trust to make decisions about family creation: women themselves. We don’t need limits on what services we can access.  And we don’t need your ideological bullying.

The next time one of your crisis pregnancy centers, one of your dramatic billboards, or one of your bogus pieces of “sex and race selection” legislation actually works to support women through whatever choice they make for their families—we’ll talk.

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

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Miriam Pérez on twitter: @miriamzperez

  • emma

    This series is fantastic; I’m so glad RH is running it.

     

    What’s unbelievable to me is that white anti-choicers are still responding to these articles with, like, ‘oh no you’re wrong. The reproductive rights movement really is carrying out a genocide campaign, and you with your non-white female mind just don’t understand!!!’. It’s infuriating, and they just cannot or will not comprehend how insulting, racist, paternalistic and condescending they’re being.

  • progo35

    “At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.”

    Sorry, but this is just RH trying to claim that pro choicers, alone, care about people of minority populations. It just isn’t true, and your effort to pad your argument by denigrating people who disgree as racists who couldn’t possibly care about African American people. Maybe you should look in the mirror and re-examine the racism that actually does exist in the pro choice movement, billboard signs or no billboard signs.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • prochoiceferret

    Sorry, but this is just RH trying to claim that pro choicers, alone, care about people of minority populations.

    Please provide evidence for this assertion. (channeling GrayDuck here)

    It just isn’t true, and your effort to pad your argument by denigrating people who disgree as racists who couldn’t possibly care about African American people. Maybe you should look in the mirror and re-examine the racism that actually does exist in the pro choice movement, billboard signs or no billboard signs.

    Look, ma, it’s a White anti-choicer telling a woman of color where the real racism is!

  • niteowle

    Because explaining whats going on in the Latina community to a Latina is really offensive and reaks of privlage.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Rachel Maddow, talking about the assault on Planned Parenthood?  Some outrageously high number of women—with women of color overrepresented in their numbers—get all their medical care from Planned Parenthood, because it’s the only game in their part of town.  Under the guise of "concern", I see an assault on the only form of medical care that some women even get.  And that means not just reproductive health care, but when you get a check-up at Planned Parenthood, they weigh you, take your blood pressure, check your iron levels, etc.  Basic stuff.

  • jodi-jacobson

    The link for the segment to which Amanda refers can be found here, and is also in two posts on the site today.

  • aim%C3%A9e-thornethomsen

    Miriam, your piece echoes the experiences of women like me, my family and friends all around the US.  Thank you for lifting up Latina voices, especially as others try to tell us about ourselves, our communities and what our priorities should be.

     

     

    Aimee R. Thorne-Thomsen

    Executive Director

    Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP)

  • azalea

    The Georgia Ad was geared specifically to black women, not “women of color” which is a very general statement encompassing many non-white women.

    While I understand and appreciate this post it has nothing to do with the campaign against black women having abortions in Georgia.

  • wendy-banks

    Wow, the more I see of far-right wingers (aka fundamentalist christians), the creepier and more disgusting they seem to me. And people wonder why I turned my back on christanity. And my Dad says "Oh, they’ll never be able to make America into a theocracy." Uh huh, right. Reminds me of the saying "All evil needs to do to get a foothold is for good men to do nothing." These nuts should not be allowed to hold office.

     

    "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." Susan B. Anthony

  • arekushieru

    Umm, where does it say that this is geared towards the Georgia Ad, specifically? It seems to me, this is an argument against the *logic* of the Georgia Ad.

  • jodi-jacobson

    geared toward the Georgia ad campaign, but rather at the broader thrust of arguments used by anti-choicers around the agency and decision-making of women of color.

     

    However, the three other articles linked at the top of this one, which you may not have read or noticed, do and did speak to African American women, if you need to neatly segregate your thinking about "women of color" by exact color and ethnicity.  Other articles forthcoming also take this ad campaign on directly.

     

    The reproductive justice movement is a movement of all advocates, mainly led by African Americans, Asian, and Latinas but encompassing of *all* advocates who believe in the rights to choose, basic human rights for all women and the agency of and trust in women.

     

    Trying to dismiss what Miriam says here is dismissive of that entire movement.

     

     

     

     

     

  • amanda-marcotte

    When conservatives lose an argument, they often try to zero in on some irrelevant issue and argue about that instead. 

  • crowepps

    To be fair, EVERYBODY who is losing an argument does that, not just conservatives.  As regards the abortion controversy, however, the ProChoice side can stick to the issues and win because Choice includes respecting others choosing ProLife personally but the same can’t be said in reverse because mandating ProLife means eliminating Choice.

     

    Similarly, Comprehensive Sex Ed includes abstinence and gives all the rest of the information as well, but Abstinence Only withholds accurate information in hopes that ignorance = fear = virginity.

  • progo35

    PCF and NO:

    Um, like, I AM LATINA. My biological father, grandfather and great grandfather were all born in Cuba or Spain and have all been raised in the Cuban culture. Now that I am in contact with them, I have also been part of that culture during my visits. So shut up. Moreover, “woman of color” generally refers to black women, not Latina women. If someone wants to refer to a Latina woman, he or she generally uses the word “Latina” or “Hispanic.” My biological father and other biological relatives are all also Latina/Latino and I’ve never heard them describe themselves as ‘people of color.’ They use the latter two terms, in addition to “Cuban” which is where my grandfather come from just before Castro closed off the country in the 1960s.

  • prochoiceferret

    Um, like, I AM LATINA.

    Oh, so that’s what gives you the right to tell another Latina what is and isn’t racist! Kind of like well-to-do Blacks in the GOP telling poor Blacks that affirmative action is bad for them, I suppose.

    So shut up.

    Which just goes to show, you don’t have to be a white-bread American to have White privilege. If you’re Cuban, and you’re not poor, and your English isn’t odd-sounding, you can be as dismissive and ignorant of minority concerns as any other member of the dominant culture!

    Moreover, “woman of color” generally refers to black women, not Latina women.

    Some people use it that way, yes. People who talk about race and social issues with any real depth, however, recognize the category to include e.g. Latina, Native American and South Asian women, among others. This article’s use of the term is consistent with established convention in feminist and racial analysis.

    My biological father and other biological relatives are all also Latina/Latino and I’ve never heard them describe themselves as ‘people of color.’

    You’ve probably never heard them discuss “intersectional analysis” or “rape culture” either, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole community of Latino/as who have.

  • progo35

    That’s ironic, because as a far left winger, Rachel Maddow kind of creeps ME out.

  • progo35

    “Oh, so that’s what gives you the right to tell another Latina what is and isn’t racist! Kind of like well-to-do Blacks in the GOP telling poor Blacks that affirmative action is bad for them, I suppose.”

     

    I just find it laughable that you restrict your definition of struggle to include only economics when there are a whole host of other complications that people struggle with. Moreover, I am going to school on loans and recieve supplementary disability income for the time being. Yes, I’m just rolling in dough, telling poor people what to do! I disagree with this person regarding what is racist and I disagree with you regarding whether people who discuss these issues “in depth” use “people of color” as a blanket phrase to include anyone who is not Caucasion.

     

    For that matter, Latina people can come from either a white and latina background, black and latina background, or a completely latina background, so there is a fair amount of ethnic diversity that seems to bely the use of “person of color” as a blanket term. In my case, my biological father was Cuban and my biological mother was Irish. So, I have lighter skin and and freckles-from her-and dark eyes, from him. Also, I tan in the summer, whereas most red headed people burn. Some Hispanic people have one parent who is black and one parent who is Latino. I would not describe myself as a “person of color” but I would describe myself as Hispanic/Latino. That other person might simultaneously consider herself a “person of color” and Latino/Hispanic.

     

    So, really  the term “person of color” is not universally appropriate. People of Chinese descent are not “white” even though they tend to have light skin. Are they “people of color?” What about Italian American people who have dark eyes, hair, and olive skin? Are they “people of color” as well?  Frankly, I see you similarly to the way I see Amanda Marcott-stuck up and childish. For, example, the way you always start your posts with “dook dook dook…” Wow, that’s SO MATURE!! This Latina, signing off…

  • cmarie

    It appears the author refers to these type of sites:

    http://www.toomanyaborted.com

    http://www.klannedparenthood.com

    http://www.blackgenocide.org

    http://www.abortionfacts.com

    http://www.protectingblacklife.org

    http://www.stopkillingthedream.com

    http://www.maafa21.org

    I see no indication that the directors of these organizations are other than African American themselves.

  • colleen

    Now that I am in contact with them, I have also been part of that culture during my visits. So shut up. Moreover, “woman of color” generally refers to black women, not Latina women.

     

    You have a sense of humor. Who knew?

     

     

     

  • prochoiceferret

    I see no indication that the directors of these organizations are other than African American themselves.

    I see no indication that some anti-choice African-Americans are not above misinformation and race-baiting in their efforts to deny reproductive autonomy to women.

     

    Meanwhile, here’s a speech from that nice man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • crowepps

    The assumption that all Black people or all “Women of Color” would have exactly the same opinon on an issue is the essence of bigotry – ‘all those people are the same’.

     

    Definition: “Person of color (plural: people of color) is a term used, primarily in the United States, to describe all people who are not white.”

    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22women+of+color%22+definition&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1

     

    And by ‘White’ they mean ‘like us’, not the shade of one’s actual skin tone.

     

    Back in the old days, the English used the now forbidden ‘N word’ to describe everybody who wasn’t English, not only Blacks and Native Americans but also people from India, Italy and even Spain.  I first came across this in old novels, where the word was used in that sense in an old edition of an Agatha Christy novel, stumbled across it again in Kipling, and then did some history research, particularly of the colonial American period.

     

    In the opinion of those people who think this sort of thing really matters, there aren’t any gradations of ‘not White’ with light brown being better than medium brown being better than Black.  They just lump together everyone who is ‘not White’ as being ‘foreign’ and inherently inferior.  This is, of course, ridiculous hubris.  Arguing over exactly what shade ‘Women of Color’ can be is in my opinion equally ridiculous because it buys into the myth that people’s character and culture are imprinted genetically, that individuals can be sorted by skin tone, and ‘all think and act alike’ labels can be pasted on the group as a whole.

  • miriam-perez

    I just wanted to chime in and support what some of you have already said. The term “women of color” is an umbrella term that was adopted by women from African-American, Latina, Asian and Native American communities. It was a political decision to do so–to work collectively against the joint oppression faced by all the groups.

    We obviously have very different experiences based on our own racial and cultural backgrounds, but it’s an alliance that is meant to help all WOC battle oppression collectively.

  • harry834

    In what ways?