When they reconvened last month, state lawmakers, who should be preoccupied with addressing systemic racism and police violence that sparked state and nation wide uprisings, are instead attacking reproductive freedom.

Last month, it was a medically-unfounded bill based on the false premise of abortion “reversal,” which came on the heels of unsuccessfully attempting to use the coronavirus to block abortion access — actions so outrageous that United Nations experts accused Tennessee of committing human rights violations by infringing on reproductive rights and endangering women’s health.

And that was before Monday, when Gov. Lee signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, which a federal judge quickly blocked.

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New polling data show that attempts to limit reproductive health decisions are at odds with voters’ views. Among Black women in Tennessee, nearly all of those surveyed (95%) say a woman’s ability to control whether or not she has children is an important part of financial stability for herself and her family.

However, due to structural inequality and systemic racism, Black women in Tennessee make only 68 cents for every dollar a white man makes, meaning a Black woman will have to work until age 79 to make what a white man makes when he retires at 65.

Working towards reproductive freedoms

Mirroring national data showing strong support for abortion rights among the general public, Black women in Tennessee overwhelmingly support protecting abortion access. Nearly three quarters (72%) of those surveyed said they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

When thinking about a woman who has decided to have an abortion, majorities say the experience should be: as simple as possible (78%), respectful of the decision (78%), affordable (77%) and available in the person’s community (73%).

Black women must weigh a variety of additional factors when making reproductive health and parenting decisions.

A majority of respondents said they based personal decisions on whether to parent on: access to living-wage jobs (60%), affordable health care (53%), food security (51%), affordable housing (50%), child care access (49%), over-policing (38%) and racism (55%).

Plainly stated: Controlling our reproductive lives is about more than abortion; it’s about dismantling the systemic racism that prevents us from having the resources to raise our families in abundance, dignity and safety.

Over-policing, poverty, housing and food insecurity, low-resourced schools and disparate healthcare access impacts are all barriers to reproductive freedom for Black and pregnant women.

Reproductive Justice demands the human right to control our bodies, our sexuality, gender, work and reproduction.

This requires not just overturning harmful reproductive health restrictions, but proactively demanding legal protections and societal change that address the health, safety and wellbeing of Black women and our families in all areas of our lives.

Black women are the best informed to make decisions about our health and wellness, not politicians.

Tennessee’s conservative elected officials are woefully out of touch with the needs of Black women and families. Black women voters must turn out in November to send a strong message:

The entirety of our Black lives matter, and we expect our elected officials to finally center our needs and values if they want our votes.

Marcela Howell is CEO and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. You can follow her work on Twitter at @BlackWomensRJ. 

Cherisse Scott is the founder and CEO of SisterReach. You can follow her work on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram at @SisterReach. 

Source: https://eu.commercialappeal.com/story/opinion/2020/09/01/tennessees-black-women-show-strong-support-reproductive-rights/5679583002/