With the apparent refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to defend Roe v. Wade, White women are waking up to the reality their reproductive rights are in danger, although the wealthy will always have access to abortion.

However, Black women’s bodies have always been in peril, with white people - white men - seeking to control them. While the mob of white men would deny women agency over their own bodies, this is nothing new to Black women, who have dealt with this in America for hundreds of years.

Black women were exploited by the slave master, who bred them, raped them and forced them to bear children. As property, Black women had no right to marry, and no right over their children or themselves. Freedom came through jumping off the slave ship, escaping the plantation or taking one’s life. In Toni Morrisson’s novel Beloved - as it surely happened countless times in real-life history - Sethe killed her baby with a handsaw rather than allow her to be subjected to a life of bondage.

White men organized and were deputized as slave catchers, and hired as bounty hunters to track down Black women, children and men - whether slave or free - and empowered by the Fugitive Slave Act. Sheroes such as Harriett Tubman seized the reins and took control, liberating herself and risking her own life to save others from bondage.

Black women served as the stereotypical sexual plaything of white men (Jezebel), the angry Black woman (Sapphire) and the Mammy. And the field of gynecology made great advances at the expense of Black women. The so-called father of modern Gynecology, J. Marion Sims, performed medical experiments on at least ten enslaved Black women without anesthesia - on the racist assumption Black women felt no pain. After perfecting his techniques on the traumatized Black women subjected to his painful experiments, he performed procedures on anesthetized white women. Sims’ statue stood in New York’s Central Park until 2018, at a time when America began to reevaluate the people it honored and memorialized in stone.

Even when it came to the birthing of Black babies, white men succeeded in controlling the market and keeping Black women out of midwifery. Black women at one point were half of all midwifes, posing a competitive economic threat to white male gynecologists following the Civil War. These white doctors led a smear campaign to paint Black midwifes as “unhygienic, barbarous, ineffective, non-scientific, dangerous, and unprofessional” according to the ACLU. This was the origin of an anti-abortion movement rooted in white supremacy in the U.S.

And it is no accident that there are racial disparities in maternal and infant health in America, including maternal and infant mortality rates. As a vulnerable population whose health is in danger, Black women continue to face compromised health due to systemic racism, and are in more jeopardy than ever. Systemic racism and white supremacy always proceeded under the assumption that Black women’s bodies were not their own control, but rather were the possession of white men.

David A. Love, JD - Serves

BlackCommentator.com as Executive

Editor. He is a journalist, commentator,

human rights advocate, a Professor at

the Rutgers University School of

Communication and Information based in

Philadelphia, a contributor to Four

Hundred Souls: A Community History of

African America, 1619-2019, The

Washington Post, theGrio,

AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive,

CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and

The Huffington Post. He also blogs at

davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and


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