The Black Reproductive Policy Agenda was recently released in an effort to address the array of intersectional issues affecting Black women. (Courtesy Photo)

By Deborah Bailey
Special to the AFRO

Representatives from Black Women’s organizations across the nation gathered to release an agenda and policy strategy designed to unite the issues of reproductive rights and social justice impacting Black Women.

The Black Reproductive Policy Agenda was released by a coalition of more than 30 Black Women’s organizations including reproductive rights, civil rights, and faith-based organizations.

“Too often, policies are formulated and written into law without a full understanding of how those policies impact the everyday lives of real people,” said Marcella Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda.

The Black Reproductive Policy Agenda was developed to address the intersection between key areas of concern in Black women’s lives, Howell emphasized. 

Organizers said the areas of sexual and reproductive health, social, community justice and safety, and religion and reproductive justice are not commonly presented in a common platform by mainstream women’s organizations.  

“The agenda helps chart a policy-based course toward achieving justice that affirms one’s bodily autonomy and moral authority,” said Charity Woods Barnes, president of Voices for Reproductive Justice. 

The Black Reproductive Policy Agenda is already on the radar of key allies in Congress according to Howell, Barnes and SisterLove President Dazon Diallo, who are co-conveners of the policy document.

Early adopters include U.S. Representatives Nikema Williams (D-GA),  Ayanna Pressley, (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ. The agenda has also been presented to the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“My lived experience has shown me the intersection of abortion rights, structural racism and the denial of Black women’s bodily authority,” said Rep. Williams, who is one of the first legislators to speak out in support of the policies presented by the coalition of black women’s organizations.

“I am proud to support he Black Reproductive Justice Policy Agenda because when we uplift and support Black women, we uplift all communities,” said Williams.

The term reproductive justice was created by The Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, a group of 12 Black women who originally organized in Chicago in 1994. The term was designed to combine the concepts of reproductive rights and social justice and address, what many women of color activists saw as a false dichotomy between “pro-choice” and “pro-life” women’s agendas.  

The Black Women’s Groups who presented the Black Reproductive Policy Agenda this week emphasized a holistic agenda that also takes into consideration the economic and political factors that impact black women’s lives.

“There is a need for a better understanding of the issues Black women face,” said SisterLove’s Diallo.  Based in Atlanta, SisterLove is the oldest sexual and reproductive justice organization in the Southeast.

The policy agenda statement addresses a wide range of issues facing black women from maternal and mental health to police violence and voting rights, housing justice, immigrant rights, education and economics, LGBTQ issues, and environmental and food justice.

“Black Women live extraordinarily intersectional lives,” Diallo said. “We are at a critical time….and we have ensured that the agenda offers policy solutions for the best outcomes for our sexual and reproductive health and our overall well-being through the lens of justice.  Our lives matter enough to demand nothing less,” Diallo concluded.

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