Controlling Reproduction Affects Black Women Two Times Over

Chinara Embden

Men have had and will continue to have the ability to control a person’s limitation to certain rights for as long as they have the power to do so. Legal matters and constitutional laws are put into place so that citizens can see the fruition of our so-called democracy, however, that has not ever been the case for people of color and more specifically, Black Americans. For many years, we have been fighting this unbalanced injustice in many ways. No matter what the circumstance provides, we have never had a fair chance at life itself. In this article, I will explore the connection between governmental control over human rights and how that has illustrated itself in the state of Georgia, my home. More specifically, I will be discussing reproductive rights and the lack thereof. 

In 2019, Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp signed the “heartbeat bill” which makes abortion illegal after 6 weeks. According to this law, a woman can no longer terminate pregnancy once a “heartbeat” is detected which by law makes the fetus a “human being” (Wax-Thibodeaux and Cha, 2019). There are many states that oppose the right to abortion and that claim to promote life, however, this is the opposite of that. Kemp made it clear that he plans to have one of the toughest abortion laws in the whole country, and this shows his and many other men’s abuse of power on women’s health. As we examine the impact of abortion and contraceptive methods in this article, it will become clear that women and Black women specifically are disadvanteged either way. 

Historically, there were contradictory practices that aimed to decrease Black populations through allowing access to birth control. When contraceptive methods were first introduced, it was quickly paired with the eugenics movement to prevent Americans from being replaced by negroes or overly-high birth rates of other ethnic groups (Hartmann, 2016). Black women weren’t allowed access to birth control due to societal placement, yet clinics were offered in order to decrease their reproduction. Furthermore, it has been reported that many Black women make decisions to abort in the first place because of the impact that lack of health insurance, chronic health problems, poverty etc. have on pregnancy and make childbearing a hazard (Ross and Solinger, 2017). Furthermore, according to the data presented by the Georgia House Study on Maternal Mortality in 2019, Black women are also having double the maternal mortality rate than white women (Grady News). This is due to lack of accessibility and fundamental barriers to adequate healthcare. The healthcare system has been set up for Black women and their reproductive health to fail, and this exemplifies how Black women have been disadvantaged from the start.

On the other hand, while birth control has historically been a mechanism to interrupt the reproduction of Black children, Black women have also found relief in having access to contraceptive methods. This is seen through Black women’s desire to choose whether, when, and how often they want to get pregnant and have a child (Ross and Solinger, 2017). For many Black women, this is the key to middle class security and status. According to scholar Patricia Collins, social class is made up of education, occupational status, and income, and a person’s status is defined by possession or absence of criteria (1997). For this reason, Black women wanted to use this as a way to take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities that they knew they already had limited access to. However, this is a multidimensional fight we are still facing. 

As a young Black woman in America and a Georgia citizen, I have to deal with the repercussions of those who decide to place my health in their hands. A method that was once used to destroy African Americans and is now an effort to advance in a society that doesn’t provide the necessary support impacts the type of future that I will have once I leave school. Trying to control reproduction has not deemed itself beneficial in any circumstance, and I’m not sure why the topic of women’s health is still being addressed by those who are not in any way directly impacted. 

Chinara is a senior Psychology major at Davidson College.

References:

Eunjung Cha, A., & Wax-Thibodeaux, E. (2019, May 08). Georgia governor SIGNS 'heartbeat BILL,' giving the state one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/georgia-governor-signs-heartbeat-bill-giving-the-state-one-of-the-most-restrictive-abortion-laws-in-the-nation/2019/05/07/d53b2f8a-70cf-11e9-8be0-ca575670e91c_story.html

Collins, P. (1997). African American Women and Economic Justice: a preliminary analysis of wealth, family, and African-American social class. In HeinOnline. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Law Library.

Hartmann, B. (2016). Birth of an Ideology. In Reproductive rights and wrongs: The global politics of population control. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

Premature birth report card. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/peristats/tools/reportcard.aspx?frmodrc=1®=13

Ross, L., & Solinger, R. (2017). Managing Fertility. In Reproductive justice: An introduction. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

UGAgradynewsource. (2020, November 18). In Georgia, the most dangerous state for pregnant Women, policy change could save lives. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://gradynewsource.uga.edu/in-georgia-the-most-dangerous-state-for-pregnant-women-policy-change-could-save-lives/