SPARK Responds To The Terrorist Attack In Charlottesville

Atlanta, GA, Tuesday, August 15, 2017: White nationalists gathered this past Saturday for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, VA, where a skirmish that can only be described as yet another domestic terror act ensued. The violence tragically ended in the death of a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, and numerous other injuries at the hands of heavily-armed terrorists carrying everything from baseball bats to assault rifles. The white supremacist rally was staged against the planned removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee from a public park and followed an unsanctioned torchlit pre-rally Friday night on the University of Virginia campus that had also descended into violence.

Since 2001, the number of violent attacks in the U.S. inspired by far-right ideology has spiked to an average of more than 300 a year, according to a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. The display of violence and hatred in Charlottesville is an unmistakable instance of the white supremacist movement to silence the voices and control the bodies of those most disenfranchised. This violence works to uphold and reinforce dangerous and negative policies, practices, and culture. These actions are acts of terrorism and this terror continues to be the experience of people with marginalized identities in our country. Although this event occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, this kind of vitriol and hatred is not just a “Southern Thing”, it is a symptom of a national system of oppression that strives to completely silence the voices that are historically ignored. The grievance is made even more significant when viewed in light of the Trump administration’s reversal of a grant to a group that works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis, and to direct all funding toward fighting what the president has described as “radical Islamic terrorism.” The Department of Homeland Security had awarded the group $400,000 as part of its Countering Violent Extremism. It was the only group selected for a grant that focused exclusively on fighting white supremacy.

SPARK Reproductive Justice Now! stands firmly against any body or system that seeks to control the bodily autonomy of others and we send our sincere condolences to the victims of Saturday’s terror attack in Charlottesville, especially to the family and friends of Heather Heyer. Our goal is to ensure the liberation of all people, especially Black women, women of color, as well as queer and trans youth of color due to the legacy of systematic oppression of these groups. The resilience of our communities is staggering but our work does not exist in a vacuum and we deeply honor the allyship of people outside these groups. As we move through the coming days, we hope that this tragedy will, at the very least, reopen the conversation about protestors’ rights especially for us in Georgia, where Republican senators recently passed a “Back the Badge” bill that increases penalties for blocking “any highway, street, sidewalk or other public passage.” With this bill, it is evident that white supremacy jeopardizes the safety in our communities daily. Although the Charlottesville event has been highly publicized, attacks on the bodies of people of color, Black women, and queer and trans people are every day assaults. These events are not mutually exclusive and cannot be isolated from each other. They are connected by racism, sexism, heterosexism, and cissexism which contribute to xenophobia, transphobia, and homophobia.

Now is the time to elevate the most marginalized and silenced voices above those who wish to silence them.  It is not enough to “be a good person.” We must be engaged. We must make an intentional effort to foster cultural humility. We must be active in public and in private. We must be loud. We must be brave.

For more information contact:

Dr. Krystal Redman

Executive Director

SPARK Reproductive Justice Now!

404-331-3250

Krystal@sparkrj.org

 

Shut down the AHCA! #MyCoverageMatters

Atlanta, GA, Wednesday, May 10, 2017: The United States House Of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) last week, rushing it into a vote even before it could be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The AHCA is a culmination of Trump’s long-standing threat to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which had provided one of the largest expansions of health coverage in a generation and had most notably been successful at protecting people with pre-existing conditions from health coverage discrimination.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it will be reviewed by an all-male Health Care Working Group comprising 13 Republican party leaders, including Ted Cruz and Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, in a move that has widely been criticized by both Senate Democrats and moderate conservatives.

SPARK has long worked towards medicaid expansion in Georgia and we firmly believe that the the proposed medicaid structure under the AHCA would further hinder the state’s flexibility to find innovative solutions to health disparities that face our communities. We publicly condemn this bill and call upon YOU to join us in letting our elected representatives know that the AHCA not only puts the health of millions of Americans at jeopardy but further endangers the lives of those most marginalized in society. With a list of pre-existing conditions that includes everything from pregnancy to domestic abuse and rape, the AHCA is clearly an ethically indefensible bill and does nothing to reduce premiums or expand coverage. In fact, the AHCA is slated to redirect over $600 billion in federal funds that have historically been used for coverage expansion to high-income households, effectively making it a tax-cut for the rich and not a healthcare bill for all Americans.

Activists across the nation have launched a campaign against the AHCA and SPARK urges you to add your voice to this grassroots movement to tell our elected representatives that we will not stand for this harmful bill.

TWEET YOUR THOUGHTS! Participate in our twitter chat on Tuesday 5/16 from 11:00am – 3:00pm by sharing your personal health access stories and thoughts on the already extensive list of pre-existing conditions that are not protected under the AHCA using the hashtags #MyCoverageMatters and #WeExistUnconditionally. Tag SPARK on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and we will repost your comments throughout the chat.

SHOW UP! May is Mental Health Awareness Month and SPARK will be addressing the mental health issues in our communities and highlighting the resulting impacts on relationships, employment and overall health. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 24 million Americans will lose mental health coverage by 2026 under the AHCA. Studies repeatedly show a link between lack of mental health access and homelessness and it is these members of our communities that are most vulnerable to stigmatization, exploitation and brutal victimization. SPARK will be out in the field on Thursday 5/11 from 10:00am – 11:30am speaking with homeless people in our community to record their personal mental health stories. Want to join us? Email our volunteer coordinator, Taylor Trimble (she/they) at Taylor@sparkrj.org for more information.

For more information on SPARK and the AHCA contact:

Dr. Krystal Redman

Executive Director

SPARK Reproductive Justice Now!

404-331-3250

Krystal@sparkrj.org

National poll shows voters support lifting abortion coverage bans including the Hyde Amendment

unnamedWashington D.C. (September 15, 2016) New polling data released today from Hart Research Associates shows that three in four (76 percent) battleground voters agree (including 60 percent who strongly agree) with the statement, “However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.” There is broad consensus on this point across party lines with 76 percent of independents, 66 percent of Republicans, and 89 percent of Democrats in agreement. The poll also found that a majority of voters in battleground states would support a bill requiring Medicaid to cover abortion by a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent.

This mirrors a June 2015 nationwide poll, in which voters supported such a bill by a margin of 56 percent to 40 percent. Sentiment against the Hyde Amendment is especially strong among Millennials, African Americans, and Hispanics. A growing coalition of community leaders and lawmakers from across the country is calling for an end to the Hyde Amendment and similar policies that deny abortion coverage.

To mark 40 years that women have lived under the Hyde Amendment (as of September 30th, 2016) and showcase the growing commitment to lifting this harmful restriction on abortion, All* Above All—led by young people and people of color across the country—is hosting the first-ever United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action from September 25th to October 1st, 2016.

Organizations participating in the United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action are finding creative ways to send the message that they’ve had enough of politicians interfering in personal decision-making, including:

  • 130 activities hosted by 68 organizations in 38 states to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women;
  • activities such as concerts, yarn “stormings,” comedy shows, bike rides, art installations, and film screenings;
  •  a multi-city ad campaign amplifying the voices of Catholics across the country; and
  • celebration of local victories, like last week’s Ithaca Common Council (Ithaca, NY) unanimous passage of a resolution calling on Congress to pass the EACH Woman Act.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, lead sponsor of the EACH Woman Act – groundbreaking legislation to lift the Hyde Amendment, said: “Forty years of the Hyde Amendment is forty years too long. I was a staffer in the House of Representatives when this shameful and discriminatory policy was first passed.  This is why I introduced the EACH Woman Act to finally make Hyde history. I’m proud that this legislation now has more than 120 co-sponsors.” Lee continued, “However we feel about abortion, none of us, especially elected officials, should be interfering with a woman’s healthcare decision just because she is poor.”

“We have a bold vision—that each of us to should be able to make decisions about pregnancy and parenting that are best for our families without political interference – and voters agree,” said Destiny Lopez, co-chair of All* Above All. “Across the country, people are FIRED up and taking bold and creative action.  We’re ready to bring the shameful era of the Hyde Amendment to an end.”

“For four decades the awful burden of the Hyde Amendment has fallen hardest on people of color, low-income families, and youth,” said Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director, National Network of Abortion Funds. “Every day on the hotlines our funds hear from over 100,000 people who have to make impossible decisions, like choosing between paying for utilities or for their abortion care. Every day we must turn people away. And every time that happens our resolve is strengthened to end the bans on abortion coverage and other restrictions that make our work necessary in the first place.”

“In the last four years, anti-choice politicians have passed a record-breaking number of restrictions on abortion with the sole intent of pushing it out of reach. Too often women’s basic health care is traded away for politics and compromise. Young people are demanding better, organizing on campus and in communities to put an end to needless political interference in our decision-making,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE).

“For decades, Black women have been among those most harmed by the Hyde Amendment, and today we are leaders in the fight to overturn this insidious ban on abortion coverage. Our vision is bold, our commitment is unwavering, and we will not stop fighting until every Black woman and girl has the care she needs, with dignity and without stigma, shame, or unnecessary obstacles,” said Marcela Howell, Founder and Executive Director, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

“Latinas already face too many barriers to getting the health care we need, and we’re sick of politicians who play games with our health,” said Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Forty years of Hyde is forty years too long – and if politicians think we’re going to let this cruel policy continue, they have another thing coming. Latinas are organized, mobilized, and ready to do what it takes to build a future without Hyde.”

Since the passage of the Hyde amendment in 1976, Congress has withheld coverage for abortion services from women insured through the Medicaid program:

  • Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C. deny a woman’s coverage for abortion just because she is poor.
  • This restriction has a widespread impact for women across the country as approximately 1 in 6 women of reproductive age (15 to 44) are enrolled in Medicaid.
  • Over the years, the Hyde Amendment has been extended to deny coverage to federal employees and their dependents, military service members, Native Americans, Peace Corps volunteers, immigrants, and residents of Washington, D.C.
  • As a result of the Hyde Amendment and similar restrictions, nearly 29 million women of reproductive age do not have insurance coverage for abortion.

Research has demonstrated the impact of the Hyde Amendment on women and families:

Reproductive Justice Activists Oppose Latest Anti-Abortion Billboard Campaign Targeting Black Women in Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Monica Raye Simpson, Executive Director, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective (monica@sistersong.net)

Sponsoring Organizations: SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, SisterLove, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Racial Justice Action Center, Georgia WAND, Kindred Collective, Southerners on New Ground, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

May 29, 2015 – ATLANTA, GEORGIA

GA BillboardA coalition of Atlanta-based reproductive justice and reproductive health organizations – organized by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective & Trust Black Women have joined forces to defeat Pro-Life Across America ‘s anti-choice billboard campaign targeting Black women and Black communities in Atlanta, GA. SisterSong, in collaboration with other social justice organizations will host a community town hall meeting on June 4, 2015 at their offices located at 1237 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, SW to raise community awareness, to hear the concerns from Black women in the community impacted by the billboard and to strategize grassroots solutions to prevent future visual media attacks on reproductive self-determination in our city and state in the future. The press conference will begin at 6:30pm followed by the town hall meeting at 7:00 p.m.

Activists have identified billboards located at the following intersections: Lee St. SW at White St. SW, Alison Ct. SW at Delowe Dr. and Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW at Pryor St. SW.

The current anti-choice billboard campaign erected in past weeks feature a large image of a young, vibrant Black child overlain with brightly colored statement, stating “Dad’s Princess,” and a reminder that an embryo has a “Heartbeat at #18 Days. The billboard at the intersection of Alison Ct. and Delowe features a white child with the messaging that an unborn child can hear their mother’s voice before they are born.

”These billboards are nothing more than a consistent attempt to instill fear and shame around making our own decisions about what is best for our bodies and families, “ commented Monica Raye Simpson, Executive Director, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

”Reproductive justice exists when all people can fully and freely exercise autonomy over their own bodies, relationships, and families – and that this includes the basic human right to have children, not to have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments, “ said Simpson “The current billboard messaging and placement in predominantly Black communities is an open attack on Black women’s bodily autonomy and self-determination. We know that the use of manipulative anti-abortion media that erases Black women is also a powerful way to attack Black women, to vilify those who do not carry their pregnancies to term, and to stigmatize abortion in general. We will not look the other way as they attack Black women in our city. We must also ensure these billboards do not spread to other communities of color. These billboards must go,” commented Simpson.

Cherisse Scott, Founder and CEO of SisterReach, a Memphis based Reproductive Justice organization and founding member of Trust Black Women successfully defeated Pro-Life America by getting their billboards removed from their city and stands in solidarity with Black women in Atlanta. She states, “We stand in solidarity with SisterSong against this anti-woman, pro-birth campaign targeting Black fathers. We are clear that the campaign is disingenuous and that Pro-Life Across America is not invested in the Georgia communities which it has erected these racist and inflammatory billboards. This divisive campaign only highlights the egregious motives of Prolife Across America rather than their willingness to work with communities to change the lived conditions of the people within them.”

This latest billboard campaign is the latest incarnation of an ongoing visual media strategy advanced by conservative groups to discredit and invalidate women’s human right to choose not to have a child. In SisterSong’s successful 2010 campaign against a similar billboard campaign in Atlanta, initiated by the Radiance Foundation.

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In Our Own Voices: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Statement in Solidarity with the Family of Michael Brown

NGWRJA Logo

PRESS CONTACT
Marcela Howell
202.326.8700
mhowell@ccmc.org

This Thanksgiving, we hugged our children, grateful for their presence in the safety of our families, but pained by the necessity to once again explain the horrible tragedy that marked the death of another young Black man. It was a difficult discussion that we know was repeated among Black families across the country.

We cried for the family of Michael Brown who not only had to spend this Thanksgiving with the tragic loss of their son, but also with the travesty of a justice system that refused to grant their family justice.

As Reproductive Justice organizations, we believe that all women have the right to have children, the right to not have children and the right to nurture the children we have in safe and healthy environments. For Lesley McSpadden that meant raising her son Michael, watching him mature, marry, have his own children and grow old. In just a matter of minutes on a hot afternoon in August, Officer Darren Wilson took that right away from her.

For three long months, we joined her in praying that justice would come out of the deliberations of this grand jury, though our prayers were full of doubt that a racist justice system would be turned around overnight. But we hoped, that at a minimum, there would be a trial to account for this brutal murder and the indignity of leaving Michael’s body in the hot sun for hours.

Instead of justice, we saw a prosecuting attorney who blamed the victim for his own death, who called witnesses liars, and who casually dismissed his manipulation of the members of the grand jury. Instead of justice, we saw Officer Wilson’s coldhearted shrugs during an interview in which he declared that he would not be ‘haunted’ by the shooting of this unarmed young man.

The grand jury decision to not indict sends a message that the state sanctioned murders of young Black men will continue. And like the aftermath of the 1831 Nat Turner revolution where colonists beheaded enslaved Africans, leaving their heads on the road as warnings to other enslaved Africans who craved freedom, callously leaving Michael’s body on the ground in the hot sun was a warning to others that their lives could just as easily be sacrificed.

The laws of this country were not written to protect, respect or serve Black communities. So we call on the U.S. Department of Justice to continue its investigation into police misconduct and excessive use of force in Ferguson, Missouri. We call on President Obama to take a leadership role in denouncing the biased manipulations of the prosecuting attorney. In this tragic moment in history we seek leadership to move us forward not to hold steady the status quo.

We raise our voices and stand in solidarity with the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Joell Anderson, Andy Lopez, Renisha McBride, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Ezell Ford, Ayanna Standley Jones, Yvette Smith and the countless, countless others who have lost their lives to a lawless police system.

In Our Own Voices: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is a national initiative formed by five Black women’s Reproductive Justice organizations: Black Women for Wellness Black Women’s Health Imperative, New Voices Pittsburgh, SisterLove, Inc. and SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, in partnership with the Communications Consortium Media Center.

Georgia Heating Up for Legislate THIS! Day – Annual Day of Action Calls for Gov. Nathan Deal to Approve Medicaid Expansion under Affordable Care Act

Legislate THIS 2014 HeaderFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Margaret Kargbo
(770) 875-0427
iwonder.mediagroup@gmail.com

ATLANTA – February 11, 2014 – SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, in partnership with Strong Families and the Atlanta chapter of National Domestic Workers Alliance, invites Atlanta and surrounding communities to join the 7th Annual Legislate THIS! at the GA State Capitol on February 20, 2014 from 9:00am – 2:00pm. Legislate THIS! is a statewide day of action and lobby event where key public policy leaders, social justice groups and youth engage in transformative dialogue with leading Georgia decision makers regarding policies that protect reproductive rights and expand healthcare access to women of color, young parents and LGBTQQ youth of color living in Georgia.

Legislate THIS! Day provides an opportunity for Georgians to connect with legislative officials and advocate on behalf of the 650,000 residents currently living without insurance particularly marginalized groups such as young families, LGBTQQ and women of color represented by SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW. According to a recent Abt SRBI Inc., poll conducted for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, nearly “57 percent of Georgians said the state should expand Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act” – however, Governor Nathan Deal has yet to approve.

“It’s not okay that low-income uninsured Georgians are forced to choose between getting necessary x-rays, buying vital prescriptions or paying their rent. Governor Deal has an opportunity to change the health destiny of more than 600,000 citizens by saying yes to Medicaid Expansion.” Malika Redmond, Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice

Highlights for Legislate THIS! Day includes a keynote address and remarks from SPARK’s Executive Director, Malika Redmond; Tamieka Atkins, Atlanta Chapter Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and; Eveline Shen from Forward Together/ Strong Families. Musical performances include activist, poet and songstress Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong and a local popular, faith-based spoken word artist Yani & The Peace People.

For over 25 years, SPARK has been on the forefront advocating for just policies that protect and expand access to the full range of family planning options, abortion and sexual health education. Our signature event, Legislate THIS! is designed for citizen engagement to highlight our right to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about our bodies, genders, sexualities, and families within the context of public policy making and best practices.

To learn more about Legislate THIS! Day, visit Legislate THIS! with SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW or call 404.343.6506

“Healthcare for All” Campaign Launches, Domestic Workers Urge State to Expand Healthcare Coverage for 650,000 Georgians

Greetings Community!

SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is honored to stand with the National Domestic Workers Alliance – Atlanta Chapter as members of the Cover Georgia coalition to demand Healthcare For All Georgians! Join us at the State Capitol and follow us on twitter @SPARKRJNOW this Thursday, September 5th at 5:00 PM as we call on Governor Deal to ensure the full promise of the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid in Georgia!

Expanding Medicaid will allow an estimated 650,000 people living in Georgia to have healthcare! SPARK recognizes that women, queer young adults, and young parents of color are among those disproportionately impacted by the lack of culturally competent high quality affordable healthcare that supports empowered family planning, sexual health, and reproductive health decisions.

All Georgians deserve to have insurance coverage for the medical care that they need!

My best to you,

Malika A. Redmond, MA
Executive Director

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US Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act: SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW Cautiously Celebrates Impact on Poor Women

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the historic Affordable Care Act (ACA) was constitutional. This means that starting January 2014 nearly 2 million Georgians and potentially 16 million Southerners will receive comprehensive health coverage through either Medicaid or a state health exchange.

For women, this also means coverage for a wide range of preventive reproductive health services without additional out-of-pocket costs, including Pap tests, STI screening and counseling, prenatal care, and the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV); as well as obstetric and gynecologic care without preauthorization or referral. Insurance companies can no longer charge women higher premiums than men nor can they exclude coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Health insurance plans would also have to support maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting programs, which are designed to improve prenatal, maternal and newborn health, including pregnancy outcomes, childhood outcomes and reduce disparities among women of color.

While overall, women will receive better coverage and more choices in their health care, the Court dealt a potentially serious blow to the Medicaid expansion portion of the health care law.  Under the ACA, states would have been required to expand Medicaid eligibility to all Americans with a family income up to 133% of the federal poverty level beginning in 2014 or risk losing their current Medicaid funding. Unfortunately, the court ruled that states’ participation in the expansion must be optional and that the government could not penalize those states that decide not to do the expansion.

Currently, most state Medicaid programs, particularly in the south, cover pregnant women and children within state specified thresholds. Expansion would allow individual adults, many of whom are parents, the ability to participate in the Medicaid program. If a state “ops out” of the expansion,, poor women, especially women of color, who cannot afford to buy into the state exchanges or do not qualify for a subsidy, will be in a “healthcare limbo.”

Our mission as a southern-based reproductive justice organization is to not only increase awareness about the health benefits that women gained under the ACA, but to also raise alarms about the potentially harmful impact the Court’s decision about the Medicaid expansion could have on poor women.  As policymakers in Georgia and throughout the South implement the ACA, we must be vigilant to ensure that all women and their families receive affordable, quality health care, regardless of their income.