Women In The Abortion Rights Movement

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This essay reviews the activism of African-American women in the abortion rights movement, highlighting the past fifty years. Many observers mistakenly view African-American women's struggle for abortion rights and reproductive freedom in the 1990s as reflecting a relatively recent commitment. More accurately, this activism should be placed in the context of our historical struggle against racism, sexism, and poverty. The fact is, when methods of fertility control have been available and accessible, African-American women have advocated for and used these strategies even more frequently than their white counterparts. For example, when family Planning was first institutionalized in Louisiana in 1965, Black women were six times more likely than…show more content…
While the population control establishment may have had its agenda, African Americans were willingly involved in the national birth control debate for their own reasons. African-American women were sensitive to the intersection of race, gender, and class issues that affected their drive for equality in early-twentieth-century American society. According to historian Jessie Rodrique, grassroots African Americans were "active and effective participants in the establishment of local [family-planning] clinics ... and despite cooperation with white birth control groups, Blacks maintained a degree of independence" that allowed the development of an African-American analysis of family planning and the role it played in racial progress. African-American women saw themselves not as breeders or matriarchs but as builders and nurturers of a race, a nation. Sojourner Truth's statement, "I feel as if the power of a nation is within me!" affirmed the role of African-American women as "seminal forces of the endurance and creativity needed by future generations of Blacks not merely to survive, but to thrive, produce, and…show more content…
President Theodore Roosevelt condemned the tendency toward smaller family sizes among white women as race suicide. He denounced family planning as "criminal against the race." As racism, lynchings, and poverty took their heavy toll on African Americans in the early twentieth century, fears of depopulation arose within a rising Black nationalist movement. These fears produced a pro-natalist shift in the views of African Americans. The change from relative indifference about population size to using population growth as a form of political currency presaged the inevitable conflict between those who believed in the right of Black women to exercise bodily self-determination and those who stressed the African-American community's need to foster political and economic

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