Black women, and specifically descendants of enslaved people,
abortion has never been just about court cases and protests. It has
been about the lack of agency over our Black bodies. During slavery,
women resorted to extreme measures to avoid the harsh realities of
captivity. These included ending the lives of our unborn and born
children. It is an integral part of slavery’s inescapable
right to make decisions about our bodies is once again on trial. The
Mississippi case now before the U.S. Supreme Court challenges Roe v.
Wade in the harshest terms ever and before a conservative court with
justices hostile to the current law of the land. The fact that the
last two assaults on woman’s constitutional right to choose has
come from Southern states dredges up an ugly past for Black woman who
were subjected to rape, unwanted pregnancies and forced
v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization comes on the heels of
two Texas laws recently passed that further restrict a woman’s
right to end a pregnancy. One bans abortion after seven weeks with no
exceptions for rape or incest. It also made it a felony crime to send
abortion-inducing medication through the mail.
should come as no surprise that it is a white man bringing the
lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi to bring down Roe v. Wade. Thomas
Dobbs is the state health office at the Department of Health. He’s
back up by Governor Tate Reeves who has already publicly stated many
times that “there’s no guaranteed right to an abortion”
in the U.S. Constitution. Either Reeves doesn’t know the
Constitution or is exerting the continuum of racist rogue governance
in spite of the law - or both.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization is currently the sole
provider of abortions in the entire state. It has been a target of
vandalism, incessant lawsuits and death threats. It is located in
Jackson, a predominantly Black city.
long and ruthless history of disregarding the rights and liberties of
Black folks is well documented. The state is a leader in recorded
lynchings in the U.S. including the most infamous and heinous murder
of young Emmett Till in 1955.
to Jill Jefferson, founder of Julian, a civil rights organization,
lynchings in Mississippi have never stopped. Lynchings are not some
ancient relic of the past; they have continued into the twenty-first
century. Said Jefferson, “The evil bastards just stopped taking
photographs and passing them around like baseball cards.”
it came to Black folks’ struggle for voting rights and public
accommodations, Black citizens were met with vicious attacks. The
schoolhouse became the battleground to preserve white supremacy and
deny African Americans their basic and fundamental human rights to
education. Mississippi mooned Brown v. Kansas Board of Education and
continued its hyper segregation in education on all levels.
Meredith risked his life to enroll in the University of Mississippi,
resulting in the Ole Miss riot of 1962. It was only a few years ago
that Cleveland Central High School desegregated after years of
wasting taxpayers’ dollars on litigation. In many other towns,
white supremacy is still the order of the day regardless of the law.
has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. In spite of this
and racial health disparities, the state has refused Medicaid
Expansion. Doing so would give more than 200,000 people healthcare
coverage and save the state about $800,000 million in the first two
years due to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The state has
never been interested in the health and well-being of all its
citizens, including white poor folks.
2021, Mississippi is no shining example of humanity. Instead of
standing down and reflecting on its inhumane past and present, the
state continues to move forward with its racist, anti-Black legacy.
The white patriarchal system’s unrelenting challenge to
equality, justice and democracy must be met with an equal force of
those truly committed to a new South. That movement must be prepared
to fight and win every battle. Women’s bodies is the latest