5 Lesser known Facts about Reproductive Rights in the US

The conversation surrounding reproductive rights in the US extends beyond challenging anti-choice legislation. So, I have decided to compile five lesser-known facts about reproductive rights in the US. Since launching GabarIskuFilan, I’ve initiated controversial discussions about feminism, martyrdom, eldest immigrant daughter guilt and financial freedom. Hailing from a community where speaking out against gender-based violence is taboo has taught me about the urgency of responsive, accurate and evidence-based sexual health education. This is only the beginning of a series which I plan to explore contentious topics including reproductive coercion, intimate partner violence, intergenerational trauma, and sexual abuse prevention. Here are five lesser-known facts about reproductive rights in the US.

1. Birth control pills were tested on Black Puerto Rican women first

Prior to FDA approval on May 9, 1960, birth control pills were tested on low-income Black women living in Puerto Rico—many of whom were unaware of the risks and side-effects. The United States has a long history of exploiting Black bodies vis-à-vis enslavement, experimentation, incarceration, and even sterilization. When I learned about this, I was distraught. Black Puerto Rican women died, yet, autopsies were not performed to decipher if the drug was responsible. Similar to the Tuskegee Syphilis study, medical neglect, racism, and experimentation continue to remain pervasive and unchecked.   

2. “The New Jane Crow”

You’ve probably heard of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander which chronicles how convict leasing, Jim Crow laws, and the drug war catalyzed mass incarceration in modern times. However, Alabama, Louisiana, and Ohio have all recently passed anti-choice legislation criminalizing women for seeking professional reproductive medical care. Black women living at the intersection of poverty, racist carceral system, and restrictions on reproductive access are even more likely to become incarcerated.  

3. The Gender & Racial Wage Gap

I’ve written extensively about the gender and racial gap on GabarIskuFilan because I am impacted by this discriminatory practice every day. The gender and racial wage gap exasperate the wealth gap. We are paid less than white men, Black men, and white women. Being paid 34% less due to my race and gender impacts my ability to pay off debt, build wealth and achieve financial freedom. Leaving an abusive partner, affordable healthcare, moving to a new city and saving for emergencies seem out of reach due to the gender and racial wage gap.

4. The Mexico City Policy and population control 

When Regan signed the Mexico City Act in 1984, the law prohibited NGO’s from utilizing US foreign aid in any efforts that promoted reproductive choice, prevention, or even awareness. This policy still exists. US foreign policy continues to endanger the lives of women and girls worldwide by imposing restrictions on their reproductive choices while putting healthcare professionals in a double-bind. Population control is racist eugenics. PERIODT!

5. Moving towards a Reproductive Justice Model

Lastly, I’d like to spotlight a paradigm shift in the reproductive justice movement that does not receive enough attention. Reproductive justice examines how power, race, gender, and systems of oppression intersect. Reproductive justice is the right to make a self-determined choice to reproduce (or not reproduce) without coercion, fear or discrimination. Reproductive justice is also the right to raise children in communities without environmental racism, police brutality, harsh school discipline practices, and poverty. This model prioritizes the most vulnerable by fighting for the right to raise children with access to quality and affordable healthcare, housing, clean air, liveable wages, and healthy food.

Thank you for supporting GabarIskuFilan as I envision a liberating, autonomous and self-determined model of Somali womanhood. GabarIskuFilan’s mission is to provide frameworks, terminology, and theories rooted in women’s liberation. Please share, comment and subscribe! 

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