On Tuesday, February 11, I gave a presentation at the University of Missouri’s Women’s Center on the development of reproductive justice as a framework. This Black History Month event matched well with the objective of Black History Month – to educate people about the history of Black people in this country. Black women’s historical relationship with the U.S. health care system has been dominated by exchanges where imbalance of power has proven especially challenging for Black women.
Throughout the history of this nation, regulating women’s bodies has been used as a tactic to control communities in an effort to push a white supremacist, patriarchal, and capitalist agenda that promotes the birth of white babies while condemning the motherhood of women of color in general, but Black women specifically. 
Attendees were aware of the role the anti-abortion movement has played and continues to play in limiting Black women’s ability to access birth control options and abortions. Most of the time was spent discussing the periods of history when Black women were experimented upon, raped, coerced and unknowingly subjected to sterilizations, and denied custody of their children. Race-related stress, implicit bias, and stereotypes such as the myth that Black women do not feel pain the same as white women have proven foundational in explaining why Black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related issues. 
Corporations like Nestlé have played on the fears of poor mothers (most of whom are women of color) who worry about their capacity to adequately meet the needs of their babies to push a white upper-class narrative that promotes their baby formula over breastfeeding – a formula that fails to compare with the nutrients derived from breast milk.  Decades of intense global advertising has resulted in Black women looking down on breastfeeding and up to baby formula as the modern and classy way to nurse their babies. There are deep concerns about accuracy of baby formula advertising and lack of access to clean water in some areas where baby formula is heavily promoted in, with Black babies at heightened risk to experience nutritional harms. This should also be considered with racial disparities in the infant mortality rate that have Black babies dying at twice the rate of white babies.
There were 30 attendees, the majority of whom were young people who shared an interest in women’s health. Questions raised were mostly out of disbelief that policy makers, physicians, the anti-abortion movement, and corporate leaders all contribute to Black women’s negative experiences within the U.S. health care system. Hopefully, attendees left with some motivation to combat these issues and improve outcomes for Black women and their families.
Reproductive justice as a framework and practice was developed by Black women, but it is a movement that everyone should be engaged in. We all deserve the ability to decide if and when we want to be pregnant and give birth, raise our children in safe environments, and live sexually free as consenting adults. Reproaction is especially honored to be able to share this concept and organize as a part of our mission to advance reproductive justice.
You can help us continue to educate people on reproductive health issues by participating in upcoming events, joining our email list, and following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As always, your donations help us advance reproductive justice, so give what you can if you can!