See also this piece by Pamela Merritt, who wrote on the “Freedom Rides” in June.
Three Atlanta-based women of color organizations say that a billboard campaign in Atlanta lanched by anti-choice organizations, along with so-called “freedom rides” scheduled this summer are “no more than a ploy to turn back the clock on Black women’s right to reproductive freedom.”
In response to the billboard campaign, the groups plan a counter-protest at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta on July 24, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.
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Funded by Priests for Life of New York, coordinators of the billboard campaign have organized a “Freedom Bus for the Unborn” to launch on July 23 in Birmingham, Alabama –using the historical site opposite the 16th Street Baptist Church where four Black girls were killed in a bombing by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. King and an employee of Priests for Life, will lead the anti-abortion campaign disguising this thinly-veiled attack on Black women’s rights with a Black figurehead.
Leaders of the organizations representing women of color pointed to the hypocrisy they believe is inherent in the efforts by anti-choice organizations.
“We are offended by their cynicism, opportunism, and outright distortions of historical facts. Both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King firmly supported reproductive justice for women. Lies by anti-abortionists, no matter how often repeated, cannot change those historical facts,” said Loretta Ross, National Coordinator of SisterSong.
“It is important that we are reminded of the rich tradition of Black women Civil Rights leaders like Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who not only believed but exercised their belief that we, as Black women, are capable of making critical, personal, and just choices about our bodies, our families, and our communities,” said Paris Hatcher, Executive Director, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!
Dazon Dixon Diallo, SisterLove, Inc. President/Chief Executive Officer, said:
“SisterLove denounces the so-called “Freedom Ride” proposed by anti-woman, anti-choice, anti-sexual health fanatics who have chosen to defile the original dream of our civil and human rights icons of the original Freedom Rides. The actions planned by Priests for Life are insulting, disrespectful, and completely antithetical to the struggle for women’s human rights. They should be ashamed of themselves, and it is our job as Black women and people of color to shame them!”
It is in the tradition of human rights movements that the reproductive justice movement is rooted, and it is in their legacy, said the organizational leaders, that they “denounce all attempts to vilify and shame the agency, power, and morality of Black women.”
The July 24th counter-rally will include a press conference with faith-based leaders, civil rights leaders, and women’s health supporters to take place in front of the King Center. Ross says the reproductive justice groups will “set the record straight about the anti-abortion campaign and call on the public to trust Black women to make their own decisions about what’s best for them and their families.”
“You cannot save Black babies by discriminating against Black women,” said Ross.
“Civil rights has always been about expanding freedoms for Black people, not rolling back the clock to the 19th century like these anti-abortionists want. Should Black women again become breeders for their cause?”
Ross says true freedom ensures human rights for all people, including reproductive rights and reproductive health care options for women. She says the anti-abortion Freedom Rides offer no concrete action to help communities to access comprehensive reproductive healthcare, sex education, economic justice through jobs, nor do they prevent the crib-to-prison pipeline for Black youth.
Dozens of rides may be scheduled across the country over the next year. Reproductive justice, health, and rights activists, nationally, will mobilize to educate women about their reproductive rights and announce a call to action to advocate for these human rights.