Mr. Perry, We Need More Than a ‘Deep Breath’ to Fight Georgia’s Abortion Ban

Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images for Essence)

Dear Mr. Perry,

This month, you told us to “take a deep breath” and “calm down” about the state of Georgia’s abortion ban passed earlier this year. Organizations like Access Reproductive Care-Southeast—which I co-founded and is the state’s only abortion fund—have spent years on the frontlines alongside our partners fighting back against abortion restrictions in our state and making sure Georgians can get the care they need, and this year is no different. Since day one, we have called the ban for what it is—racist, unjust, and a direct attack on our communities.

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We took that “deep breath,” and we’re still pissed.

Throughout the fight against the ban, politicians have ignored the voices of women of color and other folks marginalized in our society who will ultimately bear the greatest burden should this ban, which is currently blocked by the courts, take effect. The cries from the multi-billion-dollar film industry of which you are part of to boycott my home state missed the mark entirely. Doing so would only serve to hurt our local economy and disproportionately impact the same people who are disproportionately impacted by abortion restrictions. Tiffany Haddish was but one actor who decided not to come to Georgia for her comedy show this summer.

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Further, I was appalled at Hollywood’s day late and a dollar short response, a stark contrast to how you and others in the industry responded just three years ago when the Legislature tried to pass a bill discriminating against LGBTQIA Georgians.

Your short-sighted notion that a “deep breath” will save us is a far cry from the outrage you expressed then: “We do not tolerate bigotry, division and discrimination,” you said.

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Where is this same outrage and urgency around the state abortion ban? As a queer black Georgian whose life meets at the intersection of many issues, it feels as if the fight for autonomy and self-determination is weighted, meaning that my queer self is valid but me choosing what is best for me and my family is not as valuable. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to put my full self on hold and wait around for four years for folks to think that my life, my body, and my decisions matter.

Several reproductive health, rights, and justice groups in Georgia have been working for years to ensure that all Georgians, no matter who you are or where you’re from, can access basic healthcare without stigma or shame. Two of my Georgia colleagues—Monica Simpson of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and Kwajelyn Jackson from Feminist Women’s Health Center, an independent abortion provider—and I even traveled to Los Angeles to speak with folks in the film industry to discuss how divesting from Georgia is actually hurting Georgia workers and families. While Haddish, who attended our event, ultimately decided to boycott, I want to be clear, Mr. Perry: I really appreciate you staying and setting an example of how to make deeper investments in communities in tough political climates.

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But while I am grateful for you staying, we don’t have time to sit and “woo sah” the reproductive oppression our communities have faced before the ban and will continue to face if this ban is ultimately upheld. With the announcement of your shelter for trafficked and homeless women, girls, and LGBTQ youth, it’s clear that you understand the complex realities of people’s lives and experiences. And you should know that abortion access affects the same folks that you are supporting with this investment.

Therefore, the idea of a “deep breath” and that your peers—or anyone donating to reproductive justice, for that matter—would be investing in grassroots organizations making sure that Georgians get the care they want and need out of “guilt” is shocking and does not reflect the myriad of reasons people across this country have decided to invest in this movement.

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To be honest, if as a black man who built his empire off of dressing up like a black woman cannot see the need to actually use that platform to make sure ALL women and pregnant people have access to basic healthcare without stigma or shame, I’m not sure you even have the range to adequately speak on this issue.

We both live in Atlanta, and I invite you and any other colleagues who think we should take a breath and wait for years for change to speak with me and other black Georgians doing this work to see why this frame of thought is harmful and problematic.

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Sincerely,

Oriaku Njoku


Oriaku Njoku, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Access Reproductive Care (ARC)-Southeast, works with her team to eliminate barriers to abortion access in the Southeast.

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