When my son was born, my life changed forever. While my birth was complicated, I remain ever-grateful to my partner, doula, and midwife for their compassionate care and support. My son was a joyous gift, and my body never felt so powerful. It was also the most deeply consequential decision I ever made. It fortified my resolve as a reproductive justice champion—because I understood better than ever what it meant to have bodily autonomy and to be empowered and able to have a child when and how it made sense for me and my family. It strengthened my understanding of the need to address the systemic injustices that intentionally keep communities of color, immigrants, people with low incomes, transgender people, and those who are “othered” in society from accessing the same resources that made the birth of my son a safe and dignified experience.
Today we see the stark ugliness of these injustices in the Trump administration’s criminal abuse of pregnant women who are fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution in the hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. Women like Olivia, whose son was born with health complications after she was shackled, denied prenatal care, and completely neglected for days while in labor. Or the migrant woman who was denied medication for life-threatening preeclampsia and gave birth prematurely. Or a 16-year-old migrant mother who, like so many others, was not producing sufficient breast milk for her child due to receiving inadequate food and water while detained in federal custody.
These women are no different from any other woman who would do anything to keep her children safe. They could never have imagined the horrors they would face in these for-profit jails, which are the latest example of this country’s dark history of caging people of color.
It can seem incredibly hypocritical that the same administration that has launched a full-throated attack on access to abortion care is brutalizing pregnant women and letting babies die in detention centers. But, in fact, these policies are very much aligned. They are all deeply rooted in a belief that those who are “other” are less deserving of rights and agency than those with money, power, and privilege. They are also very much intertwined with this country’s racist history of controlling the bodies and reproductive agency of people of color—a history that has allowed policies like the Hyde Amendment to persist to this day.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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The same anti-choice crusaders who helped elect President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence with the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade have condoned their administration’s abuse of women and children in detention. The same politicians who passed draconian abortion bans across the South this year have also kept their states starved of resources to address some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. It could not be clearer that these elected officials have zero regard for the dignity and well-being of pregnant people, especially women of color and those with low incomes, let alone trans people or immigrant women.
If the anti-choice movement genuinely cared about the “sanctity of life,” its advocates would show it through actions, not words. They would support efforts to decrease maternal mortality. They would provide our underserved communities with facilities that offer compassionate, fact-based, comprehensive reproductive health care, rather than divert precious resources to fake health centers that deceive people into continuing an unplanned pregnancy. They would know that a few diaper donations are not enough to address the real needs of a person who simply cannot afford or endure an unexpected pregnancy.
They would expand universal health care to all regardless of immigration status. They would fight for insurance coverage for midwives and doulas to ensure all people can have the birth experience they seek. They would stop the scare tactics that, among other things, keep our communities from getting much-needed preventive care. They would understand that every individual has an inalienable right to determine their future and only they can decide whether to have children and should be supported when they do.
Of course, we do not see the anti-choice lobby taking up any of these issues. Which is why, now more than ever, reproductive justice activists must uplift the voices of women of color, trans communities of color, and immigrant women to say enough is enough. We’re tired of anti-choice lawmakers’ feigned morality. We want genuine leadership. We want bold policies that truly respect our dignity and agency over our bodies. We came out to vote in record numbers during the last midterm election. And we will continue to hold elected representatives accountable and take notice of who is genuinely fighting for our communities—through these darkest moments at the border and beyond.