The Abortion Rights Movement Needs to Listen to Black Women

The innate power and privilege of white women are most evident when it comes to the fight for reproductive justice, in which they too often see only themselves. From the first Women’s March on Washington in 2017 to my social media feeds after the fall of Roe, this issue seemingly animates them in ways that other issues, such as police brutality and student loan debt, do not. And then Black women, Black birthing people, and everyone else are expected to fall in line and follow their lead. This isn’t just and it sure as hell isn’t working.

When the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to have an abortion, the most pressing question on the left was “What do we do now?” My Black feminist friends and I knew that white feminism didn’t have the answer. It couldn’t. So in a group chat, we decided that we’d figure it out ourselves — together, always together. And we got to work.

On Friday, September 30, we’re asking everyone — all people of all identities in all places — to take a day-long pause for protest, learning, and community building. By Black women and for all, #DayWithoutUs will be an all-day, mass teach-in available online and offered at pop-ups in select cities across the country. This event centers reproductive justice, creating a container for us to claim space and time, to be in community with one another, and to flex our shared power in pursuit of our overall freedom. Rooted in Black feminism, reproductive justice does not stop with people who have uteruses or are seeking an abortion. It’s an expansive framework, extending to everyone — because we are all inherently worthy of bodily autonomy.

It’s very easy for white women to show up and offer their protest in very superficial ways as I pointed out in 2017, but this moment and the threats we all face demand more. That’s what #DayWithoutUs is all about. It’s important to note that when we say “women,” we mean cisgender women and transgender women, as well as people who are nonbinary and gender-nonconforming — everyone whose selfhood is oppressed by cisheteronormative patriarchy.

The loss of abortion access for some white women may feel like the ultimate betrayal and an attack on their freedom and way of life. But for the rest of us, the Supreme Court’s decision to gut abortion rights this summer was just another assault in a litany of state-sanctioned efforts to stifle our livelihoods and facilitate our deaths. For white women to ignore or only now to notice the decades-long struggle for reproductive freedom waged by Black and Indigenous folks and other people of color is to be complicit in the stripping of the very rights that they hold so dear.

The anti-abortion movement in this country understands that to be successful in its goal of a total abortion ban, it must take action against other issues like access to affordable health care, voting rights, and job protection for women, and LGBTQ+ rights. They must align themselves with the racist, fascist MAGA movement, as well as those who use their religious beliefs to uphold oppression (though a shift is happening). They see the bigger picture and how all of these issues are connected — and they’re acting on it.

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