“I never knew that … this was how things operated [and] that the system could fail you so much.” — Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother
For months, we’ve heard the names Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray recited at protests, events and public talks. Last week, we learned the name Dajerria Becton, a 14-year-old girl from McKinney, Texas, who was dragged to the ground by her braids by a police officer who then knelt on her back when she was not silent.
These names remind us that we continue to live in a society in which only some people can expect to be served and protected; only some of us can expect justice. Some of our nation’s children are denied a safe and carefree childhood, and some mothers have no reprieve from the fear of state-sanctioned violence against their children. That’s why the killing and brutalization of young black people is a reproductive justice issue.
Organizations invested in reproductive justice advocate for people’s right to have children or not have children and assert that parents should have the ability to raise their children with dignity and without fear in safe environments. This is why those who believe in the principles of reproductive justice must add their voices to the calls for justice coming from the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName movements. Reproductive justice can only be achieved when all people — regardless of race or gender — have the economic, social and political power to make their own decisions about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health and their families. This cannot be achieved when racial, gender and class inequities continue to deeply affect people’s lives.
The Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom is a coalition of organizations and advocates working to protect access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. We advocate for Mainers to have the economic, social and political power and resources to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, health and families. The principles of reproductive justice are at the root of our mission.
Guided by these principles, we add our name to the list of reproductive justice organizations calling for justice for mothers of children of color — mothers like Marissa Alexander, Gloria Darden, Lesley McSpadden and Samaria Rice. There are parents of children of color who fear for their children’s safety every day. It is unacceptable that anyone who wants to raise a family should face the legitimate fear that their children may experience violence, discrimination or police brutality.
We call for an end to the violence faced by women of color, transgender women and girls. According to the Cato Institute, the second most commonly reported type of police misconduct in 2010 was sexual assault. No person should have to fear sexual assault or brutality from anyone; for these attacks to be perpetrated by agents of the state, and overlooked by any of us, is an assault on human rights.
As a coalition committed to reproductive justice, we join with those calling for an end to the policies and entrenched cultural attitudes that disproportionately harm people and communities of color.
It is time that we all open our eyes to the systems that keep families trapped in poverty — jobs that don’t pay enough, efforts by state and federal lawmakers to decimate the safety net, lack of access to early childhood programs and quality public education, a dearth of decent affordable housing, limited access to affordable health care including contraception and abortion. We must stand against policies that reduce the dignity of people struggling to survive and limit the ability of people to make the best choices for the well-being of their families. Shifting power to the people who have been most affected by generations of policies grown out of the seeds of racism is imperative for our nation’s success.
For every person to be free to have children, to not have children, and to raise those children with dignity and without fear requires significant shifts in policy, policing, and in the cultural conversation. The Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom is committed to working with others who want to see these changes through.
Samaa Abdurraqib is the reproductive freedom organizer for the ACLU of Maine. Jennifer Thibodeau is the director of communications and marketing for Maine Family Planning. Both organizations are members of the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom.