There are only a few funerals I’ve ever attended that at some point didn’t turn from mourning to a time of rejoicing about new life and celebration. So it is with this anticipation of new beginnings that I pen this, celebrating the recent homegoing of Senate Bill 2767 in committee.
SB2767, the bill that, if passed, would’ve prohibited the abortion of fetuses based on a determination of race or gender, isn’t the first of its kind. Since 2009, there have been more than 60 pieces of legislation introduced on the state and federal level that read like SB2767 and seven states have passed such bills. This isn’t really about a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, though, as most of these conversations aren’t. It’s a duplicitous attack on women of color.
This bill and others like it play masterfully into two disturbing stereotypes: 1) Black women cannot make sound decisions about their reproductive health and must be helped not to aid in the “black genocide” of aborting black fetuses; and 2) women who are part of the Asian community only want to give birth to bouncing baby boys.
Despite how frivolously people may discuss it, having an abortion is a tough decision. A woman who chooses to have one is making a parenting decision. To have that decision then entangled by the judgment of a doctor’s interrogation about her motives is outright castigating. Interacting with healthcare professionals can already be, for many women, precarious. Adding another layer of hostility to such a situation is criminal. Furthermore, none of this addresses the real issues of reproductive health, health disparities and economic insecurity.
While we, the women of the state of Mississippi, and those who are concerned about us fully gaining and maintaining our personal agency, can take a breather that our womanhood isn’t under attack by the state legislature right now, we should know it is not time to let down our guards. Now is the time, not next legislative session, to talk freely and often about this and other reproductive justice matters. If these conversations were really only about abortion, perhaps things might be different. But they’re not. If you know know that, share that with others. A right to choose is not only about having an abortion or not. Reproductive justice is about having the socio-political power to make decisions about one’s gender, body, sexuality and whether or not to have a family. Consider this: When lawmakers turn your right to choose into political fodder, they’re making a mockery of your humanity.
Yes, celebration is in order, but it must be judicious. Bills like SB2767 aren’t going away, and next time — for there will be a next time — in this state, the death isn’t likely to be as peaceful. So raise your glasses, everyone. Here’s to Sen. Chris McDaniel, principal author of this bill. I pray you find more creative ways to show your concern for the lives of of women than stripping us of our right to make our own decisions.