Afternoon Roundup: Reproductive Justice and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amie Newman

News of reproductive and environmental justice on the day of remembrance for Martin Luther King, Jr.

I thought the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was a perfect vehicle for a round-up highlighting why reproductive justice and access to health care is core to social justice overall.

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America released a statement today in which they remind us of Dr. King’s message of equity as it relates specifically to health care access:

Dr. King also spoke passionately about the need for equity in health care, and said in 1966, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’…

“Planned Parenthood is opposed to racism and prejudice of any kind and is fully committed to ending racial disparities in health care, including reproductive health care that disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and others.  More than 90 percent of the health services provided at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventive in nature, including lifesaving breast exams, Pap tests, contraception, and physical exams at an affordable cost.

“In 1966, Planned Parenthood presented Dr. King with the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award, the organization’s highest honor, in recognition of his excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and rights.

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“Martin Luther King Jr. Day serves as a reminder of how much we have accomplished and how much we have yet to achieve.  Making affordable health care available to all Americans will ensure that Dr. King’s dream of health care justice is fulfilled.”

Dr. King was much more than a civil rights champion — he was a man who lived his entire life in service to others, speaking out against poverty, economic injustice, and violence. Wherever he saw suffering, he did what he could to help, no matter who it was that needed him or why they were in pain. Through his leadership, he showed us what we can accomplish when we stand together.

  • The news media doesn’t bring, into reasoned debates on civil rights, voices who believe Black people should not have the right to vote or those who stand in opposition to interracial marriage, so why do they continue to bring on vocal anti-gay voices? It’s an appropriate and relevant question to ask on a day when we honor Dr. King and his civil rights legacy, notes Eric Deggans, media critic writing on The Huffington Post today
  • On today, Brie Cadman calls health disparities, based on race and ethnicity the greatest injustice in our health care system. “African-American babies are up to three times more likely to die in infancy than those born to members of other racial groups. Blacks have also been hit hardest by the HIV epidemic, with a prevalance that is over nine times as high as it is among whites. And racial/ethnic minorities, who are more likely to live in polluted urban counties, experience greater health effects from fine particulates and ozone, ” Cadman writes. Health care reform aims to remedy so many of these disparities – it’s why Cadman is asking folks to sign onto a petition to Congress to ensure health reform remains in place. 
  • Environmental justice, anyone? While this study doesn’t appear to address the disparities according to socio-economic status or race, it did find some startling evidence of potentially harmful chemicals in 100% of pregnant women in the U.S. The study was conducted by the UCSF Programs on Reproductive Health and the Environment and revealed levels of chemicals including: BPA (found in plastic containers and in baby bottles, the use of which is banned in some states now), PCBs and PBDEs (a chemical compound used in flame retardants banned in many states).

“Several of these chemicals in pregnant women were at the same concentrations that have been associated with negative effects in children from other studies…”, said Tracy Woodruff, lead author of the study.

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