For the past three years, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR, along with dozens of partners, has hosted a Halloween-themed social media conversation on Twitter about the frightening facts and the disparate outcomes in health, wealth, safety and well-being that reproductive-justice warriors like Sister Song have been fighting to address for over two decades. #ScaryStats is part awareness raising and part call to action to invite people to do something about injustice and oppression in their communities.
#ScaryStats is also about sounding the alarm for black mamas not surviving the birth of their children in a country that spends more per capita on health care than any other nation in the world. People of color, LGBTQ people, undocumented immigrants and those who live at the intersections of these identities navigate a nation that reminds them every day that whether they live or die is not a priority.
This is not hyperbole; this is fact:
- Latinas make 55 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
- Black women make slightly more, at 67 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
- Indiscriminate raids, mass deportations and border checkpoints are placing disabled children in the crosshairs of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and tearing them away from their families.
- It is safer for women to have a baby in Bosnia than in the United States.
- One-third of transgender people in the U.S. (pdf) report living in extreme poverty. People in Flint, Mich., still don’t have clean water.
These facts are not just inconvenient statistics; they are manifestations of horrible policies imagined by powerful lobbying firms and approved by local, state and federal legislators who, too often, put their own personal beliefs and political agendas ahead of the needs of their constituents.
That is not just scary; it is terrifying. And the Twitter conversation was about shining a light on the struggles faced by women of color and other people living at the margins of power. It was about making it clear that #BlackLivesMatter and that black women are facing a public health crisis. It was intended to amplify the very real harms caused by our broken immigration system and lack of fair workplace policies.
Of course, social media trolls committed to proving how morally bankrupt they are were quick to attack. Anti-abortion trolls tried to hijack the conversation in order to shame people for accessing abortion care or supporting abortion access. As is often the case, they were too busy demonizing providers and people who need care to actually consider truly listening to and supporting women.
Planned Parenthood Black Community, a forum to lift the specific needs of black women and communities of color and to emphasize the efforts to ensure the health, rights and dignity of black people, became the focus of the Twitter attacks after it shared information about the maternal health crisis that black women in the United States are facing right now.
And, be clear, this is a human rights crisis.
More black women have died in childbirth this year than from abortion-related complications in the past 15 years combined. Much more needs to be done to protect and expand access to the full range of reproductive health services that black women need—including abortion—and make sure that people are aware that maternal mortality is an issue that needs some very real attention.
Since the truth and facts don’t mean much to many of the people who want to make abortion illegal by any means necessary and regardless of whom it harms, anti-abortion trolls took a tweet from PP Black Community out of context and shared it at a hearing on a six-week and 20-week abortion ban introduced by the House of Representatives.
See Twitter thread below:
They also pushed their followers to attack Planned Parenthood with tweets defaming abortion providers and black women for committing “genocide.”
So let’s be very real here:
The people who troll black women for affirming that abortion is medically safe while uplifting the crisis of maternal mortality in the United States do not care about mothers, babies or families.
The people who rely on doctored quotes and half-truths about a woman who has been dead for 50 years to cut off women’s access to family planning services do not care about mothers, babies or families.
The people who advocate for the introduction of six-week and 20-week abortion bans while trying to take away prenatal care, limit access to birth control and get rid of the adoption tax credit do not care about mothers, babies or families.
The people who claim to care about the “unborn” (which is questionable, considering their cuts to maternal health benefits) don’t care about the living, breathing children of color being actively harmed and killed as a result of state-sanctioned violence by the police, ICE and Border Patrol. And they do not care about mothers, babies or families, as shown by their unwillingness to invest in education, housing, transportation and health for all.
It’s time for us to call out their toxic and perverted morality masking as “care” for what it is: a sham. We have clear data to prove it. Fighting the battle of abortion while starving our communities is immoral and unjust.
The best antidote to their scary agenda is to build our collective power. Black women should decide if they are ready to parent and should have the support and the care they need no matter what decision they make. Organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance and the Afiya Center are already working to save the lives of black mamas by addressing why black women are dying in childbirth.
You see, we have the power to build a world where, in the words of Sister Song, people can “maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” free from harm from individuals or the government. That is what reproductive justice is; that is what we are fighting for.
That is why we won’t stop.
You can come at us, but know that we won’t be shamed or harassed into silence.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.
The National Birth Equity Collaborative’s mission is to reduce black maternal and infant mortality through research, family-centered collaboration and advocacy. Our vision is that every black infant will celebrate a healthy first birthday with their family.
The Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights works to support and empower Latinas to speak out and shape policies that impact our lives in order to ensure that we all have the rights, resources and power to live with health and dignity.