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I’ve always considered so-called “pro-life” anti-abortion zealots to be virulently pro-death. Not just the male stalkers who terrorize and police women with plastic bloody fetuses outside of abortion clinics (apparently with immunity), but the female anti-abortion architects who wear their complicity with white supremacist patriarchy proudly and unabashedly; rail against birth control and welfare; and demonize Black children warehoused in foster care, jails, and in the streets because of the neoliberal destruction of the social safety net.
In a 2014 discussion between feminist cultural critic bell hooks and trans activist and actress Laverne Cox, hooks argued that folks who are against reproductive health care can’t be considered feminists. In this era, when women’s right to self-determination is under siege on multiple levels, being for reproductive justice is nonnegotiable for a feminism based on economic justice.
The Trump administration’s potential restoration of the so-called domestic gag rule—on which the DHSS will only take public comments through July 31—is the latest act of state violence against women’s right to self-determination, which directly attacks poor women of color. Originally implemented by the Reagan administration in 1988 and rescinded by Clinton in 1993, it would not only prohibit health care providers who receive federal Title X funds from informing patients about abortion services, but it would also “require both physical and financial separation” of a clinic’s abortion-related services from its Title X services.
Instituted under the Nixon administration, Title X funds are specifically designated for family planning and preventive health care for low-income and uninsured patients. Title X provides funding for birth control, cancer and STD/STI screening, and pregnancy counseling services. As part of the Religious Right’s “death by a thousand cuts” strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, the policy takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, one of the biggest sources of health care for women in the United States. Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that receive Title X funding are frequently the only federally funded providers in rural and low-income communities. The gag rule is opposed by the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Restricting providers from giving women full and accurate information about their options for abortion subverts the very foundation of trust between patient and practitioner. Like the totalitarian prohibitions on speech and information in George Orwell’s 1984, the gag order would effectively condemn working-class women to incomplete and/or inaccurate information while middle-class women with private health coverage would continue to be empowered with the resources and information to control their bodies.
Women of color overwhelmingly rely on Title X-funded clinics for comprehensive care and counseling on family planning. According to California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Latinas comprise 53 percent of the nearly one-million women who receive services at Title X clinics in California alone.
Nearly a million African-American women rely on Title X-funded health care. According to the Black Women’s Health Imperative, 21 percent of patients who rely on Title X for birth control and reproductive health care are Black. The gag rule—coupled with the wave of reproductive health care clinic closures that have devastated poor communities of color in the South and Midwest—are clear examples of how abortion is an economic justice issue, a vital pathway that affords women access to jobs, housing, education, and wealth equity when they’re in control of their bodies and destinies. Any entity that would aid and abet Trump’s criminal gag rule is not “pro-life” but an accessory to state violence.
Follow Sikivu Hutchinson on Twitter: @sikivuhutch.