“We Remember”: The brochure that ignited the reproductive freedom movement

In September 1989, 16 Black women published the first collective statement advocating for equal access to reproductive health care, forcing advocates of reproductive freedom to consider the fundamental differences in access for women of color. This brochure, which you can read in full thanks to Planned Parenthood, was distributed on the heels of the Supreme Court case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which ruled that states had the right to limit abortion access. 

The brochure expressed Black women’s opposition to public policies rooted in the oppression of black women since the days of slavery. Former Senator Shirley Chisholm, Donna Brazile, forme Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton and Congresswoman Maxine Waters were four of the 16 signatures, advocating for the right to comprehensive sex education, a full range of options for contraceptives, and the right to legal abortion amongst others. 

“We Remember” marks the introduction of the term “reproductive freedom” to the public lexicon, and expands beyond the right to abortion. 

The concept takes into account how racism, poverty, and structural policies impact access to critical reproductive health care for women of color, young people, people of low income and the LGBTQ community. As we’ve seen in Missouri, though we still have the right to an abortion, access to reproductive health care is getting worse. 

Creating the Women of Color Reproductive Justice Movement 

In 1993, the collective Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice republished “We Remember” in response to the passage of the Health Security Act, which failed to address the inequalities and injustices faced by marginalized communities.  

The collective was essential to adopting a Reproductive Justice framework to the fight for reproductive freedom to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

The reproductive justice framework focuses on people’s right to control their gender, sexuality, reproduction, and work while supporting complete access to the necessary economic, political and social resources to make educated decisions about themselves, their families and their communities. 

Continuing the Fight 

In the years since “We Remember,”  there are still serious disparities in access to reproductive health services still remain in communities of color, especially those who are low-income.  Organizations such as Sistersong and National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda (or In Our Own Voice) are at the forefront of the fight to expand access, and advance a reproductive freedom agenda that incites institutional and individual change. 

At NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, we are committed to supporting and uplifting the leadership of these organizations and people of color. Utilizing a reproductive justice framework for our own work, we are dedicated to challenging archaic and medically-inaccurate sex ed, fighting for equitable wages, and ensuring Missouri families have access to the reproductive health care they need and deserve.  

 

1 http://blackrj.org/our-issues/reproductive-justice/

2 https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice 3https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/black-women-fight-abortion-rights-how-brochure-sparked-movement-reproductive-n983216 

 

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