Linda Goler Blount speaks at the policy briefing on reproductive health for Black women. (Courtesy Photo)

In the wake of the landmark Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision’s 42nd anniversary, five organizations are collaborating to advance the reproductive health rights of Black women and girls.

During a policy briefing on Jan. 15, at the National Press Club, representatives from Black Women for Wellness, Black Women’s Health Imperative, New Voices Pittsburgh, SisterLove, and SPARK Reproductive Now, convened to discuss the urgency of providing Black women with a voice that impacts state and national policy decisions regarding their reproductive health.

Under the initiative, {In Our Own Voice: Black Women on Abortion, Contraception and Comprehensive Sex Education}, these organizations will address three key policy issues: abortion rights and access, contraceptive equity, and comprehensive sex education.

“We need to make sure women have the right to control what happens with their bodies,” said Linda Goler-Blount, president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI).

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., BWHI is the only national organization dedicated to improving the physical, emotional, and financial health of Black women and girls. In February, BWHI will launch its {My Sisters Keeper} initiative at Spelman College and Howard University. The initiative will create ways for young women at historically Black colleges and universities to understand and respond to health issues through channels such as mobile apps, wearable technology, and creative leadership institutes.

“We are inherently strong and resilient,” says Goler-Blount, “but young Black women need to get that message.”

In Los Angeles, Black Women for Wellness’s (BWW) program, “Get Smart Before You Get Sexy,”  is shifting the culture of sex and sexuality for youth, said Janette Robinson Flint, executive director at BWW. “Our role is to be smart about sex, to have a reproductive life plan, to be empowered to ask questions, and to do you.”

BWW’s 2014 annual “Get Smart Before You Get Sexy” Conference focused on transforming silence into action framed in a discussion around reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice.

The policy briefing also included supporters of the initiative – individuals whose careers constantly intersect with women who face barriers in receiving comprehensive health services. One of those was Dr. Willie Parker, physician and board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He said, “Recently more than 200 laws were passed that part away at the very substance of {Roe v. Wade}.”

From laws that require parental and spousal permission to receive an abortion, to targeted regulations of abortion facilities, to hospital admitting privileges, the bottom line is that abortion is practically inaccessible although it remains legal, Parker added.

Because the impact of these restrictions is incredibly disproportionate in the south, Parker moved to Alabama to provide abortion care for women in Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois.

As a reproductive justice advocate, his work includes a focus on violence against women, sexual assault prevention, and reproductive health rights through advocacy, provision of contraceptive and abortion services, and male reproductive healthcare.

“The reality is that Black women and Black babies are suffering based on policies,” said Parker. “What are we going to do about changing the context of the lives of women? When you make things better for the most vulnerable folk, you make things better for everybody.”