While the Supreme Court’s majority decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health is devastating, reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations have been preparing for it — and Community Catalyst has been following their leadership. At Community Catalyst, we have always known that our fights — the fight for reproductive freedom and the fight for health justice — are one in the same. That’s why our five-year strategic plan names cross-movement building as a major priority, and for the last six months, we have been developing a new strategy to forge connections between the broader health advocacy movement and the essential work of our partners in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement.
We are in a critical window as people are struggling to access safe and legal abortion and as advocates are redoubling efforts to develop a long-term vision for reproductive and health justice.
💡 Below, we’ve outlined six actions the health advocacy movement can take to support community-led solutions on abortion. This follows my initial post: 7 Reasons Why Abortion Is a Race Equity and Health Justice Issue.
1. This is a moment for learning and connecting, both as a health equity movement and also as individuals. Black leaders and reproductive justice organizations have been calling attention to the need for a more intersectional movement and language to shape health policy for decades, yet these critical voices have not been centered in policy debates. Black and brown communities continue to shoulder the burden of policy steeped in white supremacy — including but not limited to racist and sexist policies to take away power and control at the doctor’s office, in the classroom, and at the voting booth.
Before we can move forward as a more united health justice movement, we must first reckon with the reality that our democracy and policies are steeped in white supremacy and how our own actions (or inactions) have been complicit. Only then, and with Black leaders and reproductive justice organizations as our north star, can we truly shape equitable gender policies of the future.
It is our responsibility — as individuals, organizations and leaders — to stay informed via continued learning and dialogue. I find inspiration in the words and work of Marcella Howell (Founder and President of In Our Own Voice), Imani Gandy (Senior Editor Law & Policy at Rewire News Group), Elie Mystal (Justice Correspondent at The Nation), and Sherrilyn Ifill (Civil Rights Lawyer. President & Director-Counsel Emeritus of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund), to name just a few.
2. Be thoughtful about language and deepen organizational investments in cultural translation and language justice. Remember, language matters and cultural translation, a theory adapted from the Cultural Wellness Center, and language justice are critical pieces in how we engage with our communities and shape policy. When we are communicating about abortion services and policy, we should be thoughtful about using gender inclusive language and cultural translation that centers a deep understanding of a culture’s perspectives. Organizations and individuals should seek to communicate about abortion in a way that lends to the health justice and reproductive justice movements and helps us build toward a strong, united movement.
3. Make direct (and ongoing) donations to abortion funds to ensure access for those in most urgent need. Childbearing people are in immediate need for abortion services and there are organizations and individuals already embedded in communities to get them support. Support should prioritize those organizations with explicit focus on access for communities that have long borne the brunt of white supremacy, including Black and brown communities and those from rural and low-income communities. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds to learn more. Every bit counts, including financial support to cover costs related to travel, child care and lost income.
Beyond that, lend advocacy and policy expertise and support to ensure that patients traveling across state lines to access legal abortion are not exposed to legal consequences when they return.
4. Trust movement builders and community-based organizations to re-envision what equitable solutions look like. We can’t rely on the same failed systems to deliver state and federal solutions for our future. Instead, we must look to those that have historically been intentionally excluded from traditional places of power to craft equitable health solutions so that we don’t default to old systems that reinforce white supremacy.
“Policies are often formulated without a full understanding of how those policies impact the everyday lives of real people,” — Marcela Howell, Founder & CEO, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
We must learn from and support groups like In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, who have crafted a three part policy agenda centered on:
- Sexual and Reproductive Health
- Social Justice, Community Justice and Safety
- Religion and Reproductive Justice
5. Build a national narrative around abortion access that is based in fact and connects access to abortion to other health policy priorities, including strengthening maternal health and expanding Medicaid eligibility postpartum.
- Abortion is not a divisive issue
- Black and Latina/o/x voters are more supportive of abortion than white voters
- People’s views about abortion are about power, control and the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people
Despite these facts, individuals that want to wield power and control over all facets of our lives are shaping the national narrative with completely opposing and harmful myths, painting abortion as a polarizing topic. In fact, the majority of voters see clearly that abortion bans are part of a broader policy agenda aimed at controlling our bodies and lives — one that impacts everything from health care, to freedom and safety, to poverty and paid family leave.
This is why, as a movement centered on race equity and health justice, we must continue to debunk myths about abortion and work together to connect abortion to the broader health justice policy agenda.
A statewide survey in Georgia conducted by Perry Undem on behalf of the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), makes clear that a MAJORITY of voters in #Georgia are worried about rising costs of health care, support Medicaid expansion, and are more likely to vote in midterms as a result of abortion bans.
Some suggested policy solutions, might include:
- Extending Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months postpartum: Pregnant individuals with low incomes are eligible for their own category of Medicaid coverage, but this type of Medicaid is currently only available for up to 60 days postpartum under federal law. Recently, some states have extended their Medicaid postpartum coverage, but it should be available nationwide. It’s now well established that the United States has an egregious maternal health crisis for Black and Indigenous individuals, and that one third or more of pregnancy-related deaths occur in the postpartum period, up to a year following childbirth. Therefore, extending postpartum Medicaid coverage is a necessary and proactive, but by no means sufficient, step toward addressing the racial disparities in maternal mortality rates that are the result of systemic racism and implicit bias.
- Closing the Medicaid coverage gap: Medicaid is primary source of health coverage for women and pregnant people with low-incomes across the country, yet in the 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid nearly 800,000 women of reproductive age are being denied the sexual and reproductive health care they need. Two-thirds of these women are women of color at a time when Black women are nearly 3x as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes, due to systemic racism.
As well as:
- Changing ACA health insurance marketplace policy to cover services including, but not limited to, abortion, gender-affirming care, doula care and CHW services
- Educating health care voters in support of LGBTQ+ rights, Medicaid expansion, maternal health, abortion rights and contraception access
- Launching outreach and enrollment campaigns for health insurance marketplaces among women and LGBTQ+ people
- Advocating for states to accept federal funds to pay for expanded eligibility for Medicaid for services including 12-month postpartum coverage
6. Hold elected officials (and others in positions of power) accountable. Make clear that you understand this issue as fundamental to democracy, that it is rooted in white supremacy, and will not stand. Those bearing the burden of these attacks are not those responsible for placing the power in the hands of few. Policymakers must be held accountable for their actions every day. And, that includes those who have sat idly by at the rise of extreme authoritarian policymakers at the state and national levels.
This is the second part in a series by Emily Stewart. You can read the first: 7 Reasons Why Abortion Is a Race Equity and Health Justice Issue.
The Nation, Elie Mystal: The Supreme Court Took the Most Extreme Course Possible.In overturning Roe v. Wade, the conservative majority embraced a vision of the United States as a country by and for white men.
Rewire, Imani Gandy: Did You Know That Saying ‘Pregnant People’ Isn’t Just Inclusive — It’s Correct?Our abortion politics must be inclusive of trans and nonbinary people, or the fight that we are waging for human rights is a farce.
Fast Company: 3 findings about abortion funds you should know before you donateA social work professor who studies reproductive health care explains three main findings from the studies she’s conducted so far.