At a time when Black women are fighting for a voice in the health-care debate, a new reproductive justice report indicates that the majority of Black people polled in Tennessee are in favor of health insurance covering all costs of birth control, abortion care, and pregnancy.
A separate study, “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women & Reproductive Justice,” outlines how Black women’s rights are often marginalized, and offers an action plan for activist organizations.
Marcela Howell, founder and executive director of In Our Own Voice, told Rewire that the report combines comprehensive data with the experiences of Black women.
“We are living in times when attacks on women of color are increasing,” she said. The report is “a means to influence policy shift at the national, state, and municipal levels.”
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The Tennessee report’s findings from a 2016 survey of 500 Black people indicate that:
- 87 percent support women’s access to full pregnancy care, including abortion;
- 91 percent agree women should have full access to birth control even if her company disagrees;
- 96 percent said a woman’s ability to control when or whether she has children is a major part of her financial stability;
- 89 percent support a woman’s right to abortion and 75 percent don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned;
- 84 percent would take their teens to get birth control if it is needed; and
- 81 percent said Black women should be trusted to make decisions that are best for them.
Other findings show that nearly all the Tennessee women surveyed support Black adult sex education programs to cover STDs, intimate partner violence, and unwanted pregnancy. A large majority want to include abstinence, pregnancy options, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the mix.
Howell said this report is one way in which Black women and organizations are taking the lead and speaking for themselves. The data collected will help activists working with policymakers.
“We know what our lives are like and we don’t need others to speak for us,” she said. “The report is a reflection of the human rights frame of Reproductive Justice and the intersectionality of our lives. The media needs to understand that no one speaks for us but us. When they want to know about our lives, they need to contact us.”
SisterReach hosted a policy briefing on the broader report Thursday in Memphis as part of the Reproductive Justice Week of Action.
The report adds to a state of Black women report released in June that highlights the disparities Black women face in every field from political participation and employment to health and safety. A report in May argued that progressive movements must center the experiences of women of color.
The new report challenges both the left and right to listen to Black women and outlines a seven-page action agenda for communities to address disparities. This includes protecting and expanding health-care access for Black women; providing contraceptive equity and culturally appropriate abortion care; adopting evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs that empower Black youth; prioritizing a rights-based, self determination approach in health care; and funding research and data collection on the experiences of Black LGBTQ youth.