To understand how the United States of America became a country without the constitutional right to abortion, look to the history of Black women’s long fight for reproductive autonomy.
The reproductive coercion of Black women is a thread running through American history, one that predated and presaged the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs that overturned Roe v. Wade. Enslaved Black women were forced into pregnancy to help build America’s budding economy. Pregnant Black moms are criminalized or excluded from abortion on the basis of poverty. The state takes away Black children from Black mothers at a disproportionate rate.
Legal scholar Dorothy Roberts chronicled this history in her seminal book Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. Roberts defines reproductive justice as the human right not to have a child; the right to have a child; and the right to parent your child in a supportive, humane, and just society. Her latest book is Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families —... see more