Earlier in the semester, we have had class discussion about racial health disparities. We’ve discussed many of the ways racial experiences determine biological and social health of pregnant women, mothers, and infants. I briefly mentioned in class that the killing of black youth and young men by police officers could be a direct stressor to black mothers or soon-to-be mothers. The recent murders of black men and children (including Tamir Rice, age 12) and the failure of the justice system to indict their murderers is a violation of reproductive freedom, which includes the ability to choose to parent. Every mother is entitled to raise her child a safe environment. No mother should ever have to watch her child be murdered for existing and then watch his killer walk free. No woman should be afraid to become a mother out fear of bringing a child into a racist, violent system that will target him as a thug, a predator or a criminal.
Reflecting over the failure to indict Darren Wilson over the past week has caused me to wonder why some lives matter and why some don’t matter to our government. This question is connected to our last class discussion about what causes a political issue to receive attention or not. The murder of Michael Brown and the Ferguson protests have certainly gained attention in the media. But action against racial police violence has not received agency in our government. People are putting themselves in danger to protest racial injustice just as they have been doing for decades, but the government is taking little action. I believe that the answer to my initial question lies in century-old institutional racism that values white lives over black lives.
This article was posted in August, five days after Michael Brown was fatally shot. The following quote resonates with me conceding the connection of reproductive justice to racial justice:
It is here where the question of “Whose lives are valued?” enters into the picture, for how cheap must a life be if millions of onlookers can think that stolen cigars justify a murder? Can we have reproductive justice if the children of some are considered inherently less valuable by several orders of magnitude? If the life of a child or a young man or woman is so cheap that misunderstandings, small mistakes, or false accusations justify their deaths, what can then be said about the rights they enjoyed in life and how valuable they turned out to be?
Reproductive justice is about more than the right to choose whether or not to be pregnant. It includes ensuring that all lives are valued and each person has access to safety- free from violence against the body or livelihood. This can be applied globally; people deserve the right to reproductive justice no matter where they live, how much money they have, or where they stand in society. To ensure that reproductive justice is reached, we must work to dissolve the disproportionate violence faced by people of color and poor people. We must dissolve the devaluation of lives based on color. In America, we must start by protecting black lives from systematic violence and attaining justice for the lives that have already been lost.