This post is inspired by the super stringent abortion bills making their way through the Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and Louisiana legislatures (that I’m aware of as of now), and the well-meaning but misinformed takes about the cis white male boogeyman who’s to blame for this attack on women’s* rights. [*I’m a firm believer that abortion restrictions impact people of all genders, not just women, as there are people who are able to get pregnant that are not women and to reduce reproductive rights issues to women’s issues erases them.] My politics related to abortion rights and reproduction more broadly operate under a reproductive justice lens, a framework developed in 1994 by Women of Color seeking to advance conversations about the “Women’s Rights Movement” beyond the interests of cis white middle-class white women.
My frustration at this discourse led to me writing this twitter thread. My overall point was that the abortion debate has always been bolstered by women, normally cis white women, who support anti-choice measures and politicians because it ultimately serves their interest of protecting white supremacy and by extension their role within it. To lay the blame squarely on cis men absolves these women of their responsibility, and much like the 53% of white women who voted for Trump, their role in supporting white supremacist patriarchy cannot be ignored. The author of the Alabama legislation and governor of Alabama are both white women, which you wouldn’t know without some digging because the only images we’ve seen of politicians in Alabama since this first became news are the 25 white men who voted for this bill.
What is the recourse when identity politics fails? If these women have shown that they have no qualms supporting legislation that actively supports white supremacy and harms other women, why continue to frame the conversation exclusively around men? This conversation can go all the way back to slavery, when white women were frequently more abusive towards female enslaved people and their children than their husbands were. White women have always supported white supremacy because it serves their interests, and leaves them as the pinnacle of womanhood with a level of social protection no other group can even compare to — not even white men.
White women historically weaponize this wherever possible, because they continue to benefit. So excuse me for not getting all up in arms because these “backwards” southern white men are trying to take my rights away. If we want to dig a little deeper into the abortion conversation specifically, Reproductive Justice frameworks go beyond having the choice to have an abortion and actually be able to access one— abortions are INCREDIBLY expensive, even if you can “access” one on a literal level.
The double gut punch of this is the reactions of people who aren’t from the South. I don’t even know where to begin with this. Y’all know I’m from Louisiana, and being from the South runs in my blood. I’m immensely proud of where I come from, and to see it reduced to memes about southern people being uneducated or comment threads full of dozens of people unapologetically saying how much they enjoy ragging on the South because it refuses to do better hurts me to my core. What’s always forgotten in these conversations is Northern hypocrisy towards the South because they’re neglecting their own legacies of discrimination and (lasting) segregation. You know where the most segregated cities in the country are located? Overwhelmingly, not the South.
Also missing from these conversations is a lack of historical context for northern elitism and racism that impacts how people feel towards the South. The stereotypical Southerner is not an uneducated white redneck, it’s most likely a Black person, as Black people make up the overwhelming majority of the population in the South. Feeling that these rednecks will be punished for their own stupidity in voting for conservative politicians is not only flawed, it’s dangerous because it neglects the reality that already marginalized populations will now face additional barriers to care.
Calling for industries and businesses to boycott these states to prove a point does nothing but harm the most vulnerable populations in these states. If economies start tanking because businesses leave, poor, multiply marginalized people will bear the biggest burdens of these impacts. But of course, it’s a lot easier to blame the poor white Southern archetype who deserves this for voting for conservative politicians, than to consider the poor rural Black and brown folks who will feel this the most.
And that’s without touching the cissexism of the discourse! People way smarter than me have broken this down in depth like here, but the gist of this is that people who are not cisgender women are capable of becoming pregnant and by extension capable of having abortions. Now, if the previous sentence doesn’t seem legit to you because “all people with uteruses are women”, then boy do I have some news for you. I’d take this as an opportunity to learn more about identity. Erasing trans and/or non-binary people from the conversation about abortion access and rights only makes it that much harder for them to access this kind of care.
So yes, this news is incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking to have to deal with. For those of us who support access, it’s an uphill battle. But a good place to start is supporting the work of organizations that are on the ground every day doing this work.
These abortion laws are all a ploy (albeit a very expensive and time consuming one) to get Roe v. Wade back in front of the Supreme Court and hopefully strike it down. While this may be obvious to some of us, it’s not part of the mainstream conversations about these laws because the internet is too busy pointing fingers and assigning blame without looking at next steps and ways to support the people who will be impacted by these restrictions. Below, I’ve listed some resources as a starting point for donating or providing other kinds of support during this fight. The list isn’t exhaustive, but thinking about some tangible ways to help keeps me from spiraling into a ball of anxiety so I figured it would be useful to others. Leave a comment or tweet me with other suggestions!
Help folks who can’t afford abortions: National Network of Abortion Funds
Donate to Black-led, Reproductive Justice organizations in the South:
If you have the ability, volunteer to be a local clinic escort!