Remembering the Fearless Women of Color Who Paved the Way for Roe v. Wade

By Bianca Campbell, Organizer, SPARK

In order to honor the achievements of Roe v. Wade, it is necessary to explore the contributions of vivacious, fearless women of color in the South. Civil Rights leaders like Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, Dorothy Irene Height and Fannie Lou Hamer not only believed but exercised their belief that we are capable of making critical, personal, and just decisions about our bodies, our families, and our communities even under the most hostile social, political, and economic circumstances. It is in their tradition that the reproductive justice movement is rooted, and it is in their legacies that we renounce all attempts to vilify and shame the agency, power, and morality of Black women and all chosen families.

Our work will not be complete until women are able to make choices about their reproductive health that they feel is best for their bodies without shame or judgment; until incarcerated women can birth in dignity and without shackles; until queer and trans* people can feel safe walking down the street regardless of their expression or appearance; until queer families can visit their children in hospitals and be recognized as legal guardians; until young parents feel supported and empowered in raising their children!

To realize this vision of true, unmitigated choice over our families and our bodies, we must fight for proactive legislation that recognizes our humanities and educate not only our legislators, but our neighbors. We must organize for both the immediate threats to our communities as well as long-term, systemic cultural change. As we fight against the attacks on Roe v. Wade, we must advocate beyond abortion and contraceptive access. We must recognize the complexity and intersectionality of all the people who struggle with us. We have the people, the power, and the brilliance to make lasting change for our communities.

And so, on this historic day, we celebrate the visionaries who have come before us and the access that Roe v. Wade has brought to our communities while recognizing that there is much left to do.

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.