March 31, 2011 

Originally posted on Feminist for Choice Blog . By Faith Pennick (read more about Faith below)

The new (but not really new) trend these days is pro-life organizations putting up billboards in primarily Black communities, with the intent of shaming Black women and their reproductive options. The latest version is a billboard unveiled in my hometown of Chicago, about a mile-and-a-half from where I grew up, featuring Chicago’s adopted son, President Barack Obama.

Once again, our experiences as African American women are funneled into the narrow existence of nurturer, caretaker and sacrificial lamb for the race/family/society. It’s our job to birth the next President or the next great Oscar-winning actor. That simplistic notion fails to embrace two key points that impact a Black woman (or any woman’s) choice to terminate a pregnancy:

1) In most cases, a child who rises to greatness was raised by a mother or parents who LOVED THEM AND WANTED TO HAVE THEM, and that’s not to say that some of those same mothers/parents did not consider abortion early in the pregnancy.
2) What about those women with unwanted pregnancies who may THEMSELVES want to be President of the United States or an Oscar-winning actor (or doctor, lawyer, teacher, astronaut…)?

Why are the dreams of the potential mother less important than the possible dreams of a fetus? Likely because, explicitly or implicitly, the dreams of women—in particular Black women–are typically discounted overall in American society…?  I made a documentary in 2007 titled Silent Choices, in which Black women talked about their experiences in having abortions and the complicated reasons why they came to that decision. In all three cases, the women cited their desire to complete college and their post-college ambitions as one reason they terminated their pregnancies. No woman should be made to feel ashamed for choosing to better their lives and/or enhance their intellect, knowing that for many being a young mother may impede or halt pursing those dreams. And to those pro-lifers who would suggest that having more babies at any cost is what’s “best for the race?” Not that the majority of these pro-lifers care about what best for African Americans (because if they did, they would be buying billboard space pushing for jobs with living wages, access to quality education and intelligent, non-racist ways in fighting crime, among other things), but I say to them: all races thrive when their women have real options in health care, and when reproductive choices aren’t legally or financially obscured and condensed into insidious billboards.

About Faith:
Faith Pennick is a filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her latest film is the documentary Weightless, about a scuba diving camp for plus-size women.  You can get more information about her work at www.orgchaos.com. Pennick is also on Twitter @orgchaosmedia.

 

Guest Post by: Paula Bryant of Infusion Magazine

InfUSion Magazine is a quarterly, student produced news magazine that covers the latest campus, local, state and national news for the UGA community. Coverage includes sports, politics, fashion & style, entertainment and more!

In the years since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, abortion has become an even more controversial issue. Since August 2010, both sides of the abortion debate have begun speaking out on campus, locally and statewide.

The yearly arrival of the Genocide Awareness Project on UGA’s campus, a campaign that displays graphic abortion photos and claims that abortion is genocide, was one of the first groups to begin the attempt to disparage our reproductive rights on campus last year. GAP and Justice For All, another anti-abortion group, are both sponsored by Students for Life, a student-founded and run anti-choice group.

More recently, the Republican Party of Georgia has proposed to redefine the meaning of rape and rape victim. The redefinition would deny women life-saving procedures, even in cases of rape and incest. Similarly, Representative Franklin proposed that every woman be investigated after miscarriage earlier this year, and Paul Broun stated that “God could not bless our country” with so many abortions taking place. Finally, the Republican Party has proposed to completely cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides health care services such as STI checks, cancer screening, preventative care and prenatal care for thousands of women.

Thus, it seems there is a war against women’s reproductive rights taking place, and abortion is being used as the fulcrum.

In response to the recent setbacks of women’s reproductive rights, the Women’s Studies Student Organization (WSSO) began the semester by holding a candle light vigil for the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Roe v. Wade was the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that the right to privacy extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

This semester women’s reproductive rights are taking a disturbing step backward from the progressive 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade. On March 8-9, 2011 Justice For All visited UGA’s campus, and WSSO decided to protest.

Elizabeth Barnard, a member of WSSO, explained, “We need to make sure UGA is a bastion of intellectual dialogue on important social issues, and not a venue for hateful, inflammatory rhetoric!”

Thus, WSSO is fighting for intellectual, educated and proactive dialogue between pro-choice and pro-life activists. The goal is not to force women to have abortions, but to be understanding and accepting of women’s rights over their own bodies. During Justice For All’s display on Tate plaza, WSSO volunteers handed out condoms and medically correct information.

I believe that groups like GAP and Justice For All have a right to operate, but that they do

 

not have a right to disseminate hateful and inaccurate information as they have.

Many anti-abortion groups, such as GAP and Justice For All, rely primarily on inaccurate information, opinions and religious beliefs in order to back their arguments, yet they advocate for making abortions, a right which every woman should have, illegal. Inaccurate information, personal opinions and religious beliefs have no place in lawmaking.

WSSO, Sexual Health Helpers at UGA (SHHUGA) and Kathleen Dailey, the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom representative, a project of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, peacefully protested Justice For All, and many students were grateful for their presence, including me. The members of WSSO, SHHUGA and the Spiritual Youth for Reproductive Freedom acted responsibly and understandingly, and I believe they truly have our students’ best interest at heart.

Paula Bryant InfUSion Magazine

Two young people walk into a congressional briefing on proposed restrictions to abortion access and funding. They see their peers, their friends sprinkled throughout the crowd. The briefing begins. Expert after expert shares the devastating impact these restrictions would have on various communities, but there is no mention of youth. So, one of them asks: “What impact would these restrictions have on young people?” Not one of the “experts” could answer.

The punchline of this sad-but-true tale was deafening silence — and it’s no laughing matter. As a group, a community, a vulnerable population, young people and our needs have continually been left out of the debate around reproductive and sexual health and rights. Make no mistake: together with communities of color and low-income communities, young people have the most to lose if the heinous No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (HR 3) and Protect Life Act (HR 358) — popularly known as the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda — become law.

The financial realities facing young people — students, those with entry-level positions and those affected by the recession — help explain why these bills are especially detrimental to our age group. At all educational levels, we are much more likely to be living in poverty or subsisting on low incomes than older people. As a result, more than 10 million young people lack adequate (or any) health insurance, according to U.S. PIRG, and many cannot afford the high cost of many forms of contraception and may not be eligible for subsidies.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, young people already have the highest rate of unintended pregnancy of any age group. Among young women, more than one in every ten has an unintended pregnancy — twice the rate for women overall. Access to abortion care and insurance coverage for abortion is critical to these young women, as is better sexuality education and access to contraception.

Sadly, young people are also more likely to face additional legal and procedural roadblocks to accessing reproductive health services. In fact, these barriers are so difficult that many young women are forced into having a later abortion — which is more difficult to obtain, often available only in a hospital and much more costly.

At any age, abortion is not an easy decision but is often a necessary one. This is no different for young people. MTV’s recent special, No Easy Decision, featured three young women who made the decision to have an abortion. One of the women, Natalia, was a junior in high school when she found out she was pregnant. Terrified to tell her family, she was forced to seek a judicial bypass in order to receive abortion care. “I stood in front of a judge and asked him to please not make me tell my parents,” she explained, “And they granted it, but it’s kind of hard to stand in front of a stranger in an empty court room all by yourself with no one standing next to you at 17 begging for permission to make your own decision.” She sold her prom ticket to come up with the out-of-pocket costs of the procedure.

These stories are almost always absent from the national conversation over abortion rights, as stigma and fear pressure women (especially young women) into silence about their experiences. Yet, Natalia’s story perfectly illustrates why young people need fewer, not more, barriers to accessing healthcare and insurance coverage for abortion — and why access to comprehensive sex education, contraception and family planning services are so important. Yet, young people are almost always the first targets of anti-choice legislation at the local, state and national level. Whether it is mandatory parental notification and consent laws or late-term abortion restrictions, anti-choice proponents have been hard at work putting up barrier after barrier for young people to access abortion. For many young people, the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda would be the final, insurmountable barrier to an already obstacle-filled process.

But then, that’s exactly the point. The politicians pushing these bills want to impose their moral and religious views on all of us — whether we share those views or not. Our generation has grown up in the most diverse environment in American history. We have a deep respect for differing religious beliefs and political views. We also have a responsibility to speak out when any group attempts to impose their ideology on the rest of us.

Decision-makers and those in power may not be aware of the impact that the “Stupak on Steroids” agenda will have on young people, but we are. We are speaking out against this legislation because we know what it will do to us as individuals and communities. We are voting, tax-paying citizens who know how to use the power of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to educate our peers about the devastating impact of this legislation. We are calling Congress and holding meetings with our representatives. We are letting them know that if they cave on our reproductive rights now, they will feel it at the ballot box in 2012. We need leaders who have the best interests of our health and futures in mind and who are willing to fight for what is just.

We constantly hear the laments about the need for young people to engage with the political process — well, here we are. You can’t lecture us about responsibility and then take away our fundamental rights to make responsible decisions about our own bodies and lives.

We must make sure young people have a place at decision-making tables. We must make sure our rights are protected, even when it is more politically complicated to do so. We must invest in the time, the activism, the talent of young people. Doing anything short of this will make for an even sadder punchline to an already terrible joke.

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post
Authors: Angela Baxter, Director of SYRF; Sarah Audelo, Advocates for Youth & Carmen Berkley, Choice USA.