Brothers in Arms, Part 2: Race and Abortion from Roe to the Reagan Years

This article is our second installment in a series that explores the historical and contemporary links between racial intolerance and opposition to abortion. Previously, this series examined how fears of immigration — and racist notions that associated abortion with the barbarism of so-called “savage” races — fueled the opposition to abortion that led to its prohibition in the late 1800s. This installment examines the social forces that helped racism and opposition to abortion converge again in the first years after Roe v. Wade.

Replica of a banner used at NAACP headquarters from 1920 to 1938

A principle of democracy holds that while majority rule should serve as the guiding force of government, at times it must be reconciled with the rights of individuals and minorities. It was an idea Thomas Jefferson captured in his inaugural speech of 1801:

All … will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail … that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect.

With that understanding, the framers wrote the Constitution to include provisions for a judicial branch, composed of judges whose lifetime appointments would free them from the pressures of elections and afford them greater independence in their decisions. The branch would serve as the nation’s highest judicial body, above state and local courts.

Before his obsession with abortion and Tinky Winky, Jerry Falwell fought civil rights and integration.

For much of U.S. history, local, state, and federal judicial systems existed alongside another judicial system, one far less formal and conceived not in the interest of protecting minorities, but often in meting out the harshest possible punishments for them. It was the vigilante justice of lynching, sometimes known as Lynch law. Named after the Virginia plantation owner Charles Lynch, it was a form of mob justice that took root in the Revolutionary War era, before an official court system was fully established. It came to mean quick trials that ended in public hangings.

Though lynching was initially used against British loyalists, eventually Southern blacks became the overwhelming majority of its victims. Many Native Americans, Asians, Jews, and Mexicans were also lynched. According to the NAACP, between 1882 and 1968, in the period of racial tension in the post-slavery and civil rights years, 4,743 lynchings took place, and 3,446 of its victims were black. Rather than taking place under the cover of night or in countryside seclusion, many lynchings were staged in broad daylight, even in front of courthouses, and they were often advertised beforehand in newspapers — a blunt assertion of their existence as a separate judicial system for people of color. Though associated with the South, they took place in the North as well. In fact, only a few states — Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — had no lynchings between 1882 and 1968. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Contraception: Contraceptive Changes on the Horizon

MicrogestinThe Affordable Care Act has undeniably improved women’s ability to receive preventive care that includes contraception. Insured women are now able to have any FDA-approved birth control provided to them at no cost as part of their preventive health care. Access to contraception has been shown time and again to improve the lives of women, their children, and their families by allowing them to plan and space pregnancies, decreasing maternal and infant mortality and also increasing their economic stability.

Some states are taking steps to make birth control less expensive and more convenient to obtain!

The Affordable Care Act has also undeniably opened up a Pandora’s box of contraception-related issues.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that “contraception is an essential part of preventive care and all women should have unhindered and affordable access to any FDA approved contraceptive.” In their yearly report, “Access to Contraception,” they advocate 18 recommendations, which include:

  • over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives that is accompanied by insurance coverage or some other cost support
  • payment coverage for 3- to 13-month supplies of birth control to improve contraceptive continuation

In the United States, statistics show that half of all pregnancies are unintended. A recent study has shown that if women who were at risk for unintended pregnancy were able to easily access effective birth control (such as the Pill) at low cost and without a prescription, their rate of unintended pregnancy would decrease significantly. Continue reading

University of Arizona VOX: Summer Travelogue


University of Arizona VOX students represent Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this summer, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona sent four University of Arizona students to the annual Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The conference brings together hundreds of young people from around the country who support the mission of Planned Parenthood and seek to bring awareness around sexual health and reproductive rights to their college campuses. The forum provides an opportunity for young people to learn from each other, share experiences and ideas, and become familiar with the top issues impacting sexual and reproductive health across the country.

Apart from the obvious benefit — getting out of the 100-plus-degree weather here in Arizona — this conference is also a perfect venue to inspire and remind young people about the important role they play in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement.

We wanted to take a moment to share some of highlights — from our VOX students — about the conference so you, too, can be inspired as we kick off the fall semester.

From Nancy …

Although I have been a youth volunteer with Planned Parenthood for five years now, this was the first time I was able to attend one of these wonderful conferences. The 2013 Youth Organizing and Policy Conference brought together like-minded people and encouraged us to speak out about reproductive justice, equal pay, and health care. Not only was it powerful to listen to advocates from around the country share their stories, but it helped me to understand how just a few voices can change the outlook of elections and large policy decisions.

My favorite part about the conference was being able to walk through the Capitol and speaking with our Congressmen and women about issues we found important. I also thought it was mind-blowing how many young people there were behind the scenes running our governmental offices! It’s encouraging to know that when we reach out to our representatives, we are also reaching out to people of our age who help them in office. Overall I had a great experience in Washington, D.C. I walked away with many new ideas for outreach and also a renewed sense of optimism about our continued fight for our civil liberties.

From Zoe …

My experience at YOPC was truly inspirational. We were able to see and meet so many amazing people. My favorite part of the conference was lobby day, when we were able to meet with five Arizona congressmen and women to discuss issues important to young people and Planned Parenthood. Those who were involved in planning the conference did an incredible job, and I hope that I can attend another conference like this in the future!

From Georgia …

Attending the Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., was such an eye-opening and inspiring experience. We were so lucky to be able to meet with five supportive Congressional representatives from Arizona, which really gave me insight into what the lobbying process is like in Congress. While we were pretty exhausted after running around on Capitol Hill all day, the experience itself was extremely energizing and it felt awesome to be able to actively participate in the political process.

The rest of the conference was just as awesome, and incredibly encouraging. In a time when it seems like there is a new anti-choice or anti-woman bill passed every day, it was amazing to see all the great work that is being done to push back across the country. I found it especially heartening to hear from students from states like Texas, North Carolina, and Florida, who are putting up an amazing fight against the choice-limiting legislation that is coming out of their states.

Overall, I came back from the conference motivated and ready to implement what I learned with our VOX chapter next semester.

We all wish the UofA VOX crew best of luck on campus this year and look forward to seeing what they do! To find out about a VOX chapter near you, check out Planned Parenthood’s website.